Fifa graft crisis back in spotlight with No. 2 man nabbed

Angel Maria Villar Llona arriving at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne on April 29 last year for former Uefa boss Michel Platini's appeal against a six-year Fifa ban for ethics violations. He, his son and three others were arrested by Sp
Angel Maria Villar Llona arriving at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne on April 29 last year for former Uefa boss Michel Platini's appeal against a six-year Fifa ban for ethics violations. He, his son and three others were arrested by Spanish police yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Fifa's corruption scandal has burst back into life after the second most powerful man in world football was arrested by Spanish police as part of an anti-corruption investigation.

Angel Maria Villar Llona, the long-serving head of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), is the senior vice-president of both Fifa and Uefa. He and his son Gorka and three other officials were arrested by Spanish police yesterday while raids were carried out at the RFEF's headquarters.

Reports in El Pais, the Spanish daily, said the arrests follow suspicions that Villar Llona oversaw the awarding of lucrative contracts to firms connected to his son, including for image rights and TV rights for Spain's national team. Investigators from the Guardia Civil are reported to have tapped the phones of those under suspicion.

Villar Llona, 67, has been head of the Spanish association for the last 29 years and reports in Spain say the police investigation also covers the alleged use of RFEF money to generate support for his position in office.

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He has been a Fifa Council member since 1998 and was reprimanded by Fifa's ethics committee for his aggressive and unhelpful reaction to investigator Michael Garcia's probe into World Cup bidding.

Gorka is also under investigation by legal authorities in Uruguay for his activities as director-general of the South American football confederation Conmebol, which he resigned from in July last year.

Three Conmebol presidents whom Gorka worked under have been indicted by the US department of justice following FBI investigations into football-related corruption.

Spanish police said the other three men who were arrested were Juan Padron, the federation vice- president of economic affairs, and the president and the secretary of the regional federation for Tenerife.

Spain's minister of education, culture and sport, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, told national television moments after the raids that "in Spain the laws are enforced, the laws are the same for all, and nobody, nobody is above the law".

Uefa said it "is aware of the reports regarding Mr Villar Llona. We have no comment to make at this time".

Fifa declined to comment.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Fifa graft crisis back in spotlight with No. 2 man nabbed'. Print Edition | Subscribe