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Spain’s former football chief Rubiales questioned by police in corruption investigation

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Following allegations of corruption during his tenure as president of the RFEF football federation, Luis Rubiales, the ex-football chief of Spain, was briefly arrested by Spanish police on Wednesday.

Upon his arrival at Madrid’s Barajas airport from the Dominican Republic, the 46-year-old was taken into custody but was later released, as confirmed by a spokesperson from the Guardia Civil police.

Sources familiar with the investigation revealed that Rubiales was escorted from the plane by the police and then interrogated within the airport premises.

His arrest came shortly after raids were conducted at 11 locations, including the RFEF’s headquarters in Madrid and Rubiales’ residence in Granada, in connection to suspected corruption and other criminal activities.

The searches on March 20 were part of “an investigation into alleged corruption in business practices, fraudulent administration, and money laundering,” according to judicial sources.

Reports from Spanish media suggested that the focus of the investigation was on RFEF contracts signed since 2018, including one by Rubiales regarding the Spanish Super Cup’s relocation to Saudi Arabia.

The Super Cup contracts, with a value of 40 million euros annually ($43.3 million), were secured through a deal facilitated by Kosmos, a company owned by former Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique.

* Raid at Dominican Republic residence –

As reported by Cadena Ser radio, the Guardia Civil police traveled to the Dominican Republic and conducted a search at Rubiales’ residence on Monday, confiscating a laptop and a mobile phone based on a court order.

The Guardia Civil declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP.

The day after the March 20 raids, the RFEF dismissed its legal director Pedro Gonzalez Segura, human resources head Jose Javier Jimenez, and terminated its relationship with GC Legal, the law firm headed by Tomas Gonzalez Cueto.

All three individuals were apprehended by police during the raids.

Rubiales resigned as RFEF president in September after a controversy arose when he forcibly kissed Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s victory in the Sydney final in August.

This incident caused international uproar, leading to Rubiales facing potential charges for the unwanted kiss, which could be deemed as sexual assault under Spanish law.

In 2022, prosecutors initiated an investigation into the Super Cup deal after leaked audio recordings revealed discussions between Rubiales and Pique regarding significant commissions involved.

Rubiales consistently defended the legality of the Super Cup relocation to the oil-rich Gulf state, while Pique, in April 2022, affirmed the legitimacy of the deal, expressing his “pride” in the agreement.

The Spanish Super Cup was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020, then returned to Spain the following year due to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the subsequent three editions took place in Saudi Arabia.

Pique participated in two Spanish Super Cups in Saudi Arabia with Barcelona before retiring from professional football in November 2022.

AFP

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