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Former Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales arrested in corruption investigation | Radio-Canada Sports

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Luis Rubiales, the disgraced former president of the Spanish soccer federation who kissed a player on the lips without her consent during the Women’s World Cup final, was arrested Wednesday in a corruption investigation carried out by the Spanish police before being released.

The Civil Guard said Rubiales was questioned by police at Madrid airport after being arrested as he exited the plane bringing him back from the Dominican Republic. He was released a few hours later. An investigating judge is expected to summon him for further questioning in the coming days.

Rubiales was returning to Spain amid a legal investigation into business deals while he led the federation, including his biggest decision to move the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

Rubiales was in the Dominican Republic two weeks ago when police raided his property in Granada, southern Spain, as well as the offices of the Spanish Football Federation in Madrid. Seven people were arrested by police before being released and Rubiales was identified as one of five others under investigation.

The investigation into corruption and money laundering focuses on contracts for the Spanish Super Cup and the federation’s links with the La Cartuja stadium in Seville, which hosts, among others, the Copa del Rey final and some international matches.

Facing trial for sexual assault

Rubiales resigned as federation president in September after causing an international scandal for kissing Spanish player Jenni Hermoso without her consent during the Women’s World Cup final. He faces trial for allegedly sexually assaulting Hermoso. He has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

Rubiales cut his stay abroad short by three days. He initially told the court he would return on Saturday.

While president of Spanish football, Rubiales overhauled the format of the Spanish Super Cup in 2020, creating a four-team mini-tournament and moving the competition to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal ‘worth 40 million euros (more than 40 million euros). 58 million dollars) per tournament for the federation.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into the deal in 2022 following leaked audio between Rubiales and then-Barcelona player Gerard Pique regarding millions of dollars in commissions. Kosmos, Pique’s sports entertainment company, was involved in the deal with the federation and Saudi Arabia. A company official told The Associated Press that no Kosmos employees had been arrested or investigated and that no company property had been searched.

In a brief preview of a recorded interview with Spanish television channel La Sexta, Rubiales denied a series of what he called false claims made by Spanish media.

“I don’t know what the judge said or what the Civil Guard investigated,” he said. “The money in my bank account is the result of my work and savings.”

Pressure on the federation to hold elections

Rubiales, 46, is a former player who led Spain’s main players’ union before being elected head of the federation in 2018, replacing Angel Maria Villar, who was in power for almost three decades before being investigated for corruption. Rubiales strengthened his internal support by increasing the federation’s revenues and distributing them. He rose through the ranks to UEFA vice-president and played a role in securing the joint bid of Spain, Portugal and Morocco to co-host the 2030 Men’s World Cup .

Spanish Justice Minister Felix Bolanos said he was not concerned about possible damage to the reputation of World Cup co-host Spain.

“The mere existence of this operation shows that Spain’s democratic and judicial institutions are functioning and that they contribute to guaranteeing the organization and progress of all international events like the World Cup,” Bolanos said.

The federation manages Spain’s men’s and women’s national football teams, the Copa del Rey, and the country’s semi-professional and amateur football leagues. He also organizes the referees. The government maintains some oversight over the entity but cannot appoint or remove its leaders.

Rubiales’ biggest decision was bringing the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. Clubs and the federation welcomed the revenue, but the move was criticized by women’s and human rights groups because of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women and minorities.

He had, however, appeared untouchable until he became a national disgrace for his kiss of Hermoso at the Women’s World Cup. World champion players boycotted the team and, after Rubiales initially claimed he was a victim of “fake feminists,” he ultimately resigned under immense pressure.

Since he resigned, the federation has been led by Pedro Rocha, the man Rubiales maneuvered to leave in charge. The Spanish government, as well as FIFA, are reportedly pressuring the federation to hold new elections as soon as possible.

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