MADRID (AP) Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar was arrested Tuesday along with his son and three more federation executives as part of an anti-corruption probe.
Spain’s Guardia Civil said in a statement that Villar, his son Gorka Villar, and three other soccer officials were detained while raids were carried out at the federation headquarters.
Villar is also a senior vice president of FIFA and senior vice president of UEFA.
Police said the other three men who were arrested were Juan Padron, the federation’s vice president of economic affairs, and the president and the secretary of the regional federation for Tenerife.
Police said the five men were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents as part of a probe into the finances of the federations. The raids were carried out by the Guardia Civil’s anti-corruption unit as part of an operation called “SOULE.”
Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport, 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 in a statement it is “aware of the reports regarding Mr. Villar Llona. We have no comment to make at this time.”
The 67-year-old Villar has been the head of Spain’s soccer federation since 1988, overseeing its national team’s victories in the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Villar has also been at the heart of FIFA and UEFA politics since the 1990s, and has worked closely with several international soccer leaders who have since been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
His son, Gorka, worked in recent years for South American body CONMEBOL as legal director then the CEO-like director general for three presidents who were implicated in the American federal investigation. Gorka Villar left CONMERBOL in July 2016.
Angel Maria Villar was a tough midfielder for Athletic Bilbao and Spain before retiring to work as a lawyer and soccer administrator. He was elected to the UEFA executive committee 25 years ago, and FIFA’s ruling committee 19 years ago. He has also been an influential figure in the legal and referees committees of both organizations.
Increasingly seen as a polarizing figure with leadership ambitions, Villar decided against trying to succeed Michel Platini as UEFA president last year.
Before joining CONMEBOL, Gorka Villar was a prominent sports lawyer in Madrid. He helped represent cyclist Alberto Contador in a failed appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against losing the 2010 Tour de France title after a positive doping test.
Wilson reported from Barcelona. AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.