Spain’s Rubiales questioned in corruption probe

Sports

Former Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales was detained by police on Wednesday after returning to Spain as part of a corruption probe into the deal to move the Spanish Supercopa to Saudi Arabia.

Rubiales was in the Dominican Republic on March 21 when raids were conducted on an apartment belonging to him in Granada — in addition to the RFEF’s headquarters in Madrid — but he had pledged to return to Spain on his pre-booked flight on April 6.

However, he voluntarily returned to his homeland early on Wednesday, where police were waiting to question him at Madrid-Barajas airport when he landed.

Almost an hour after arriving in the Spanish capital, Rubiales was taken into custody for further questioning by the police’s Central Operational Unit department (UCO), a source told ESPN, stressing that his arrest had not been ordered by the judge in charge of the case.

Rubiales has denied any wrongdoing in the deal to take the Supercopa to the Gulf nation, telling La Sexta in an interview due to be aired on Wednesday that his money is “the product of my work and savings.”

The 2019 agreement to move the competition away from Spain, which was brokered by Rubiales and former Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué’s company Kosmos, was for an initial three-year period and worth €120 million ($129.2m). It has since been extended until 2029.

It was a decision that angered Spanish football traditionalists by expanding the contest between the league champions and Copa del Rey winners to a four-team format, shifting the event from August to January, and hosting it outside the country.

As an active player at the time, Piqué’s involvement was also called into question given a possible conflict of interest, although both the ex-Spain international and Rubiales insisted everything was above board.

However, since June 2022 — after leaked audio of messages between Piqué and Rubiales detailing the commission involved — a Spanish court has been investigating whether a crime of improper management was committed by Rubiales when the RFEF agreed to move the competition.

In March, a judge granted a warrant for 11 premises to be raided for documents, which included Rubiales’ property in Granada and the RFEF’s Madrid base and led to six arrests.

The RFEF have since suspended several members of staff, but an official at Piqué’s Kosmos company told AP that no employee had been detained or placed under investigation and that no property of the company was among those searched.

It is one of two criminal cases Rubiales is facing after he resigned as president of the RFEF last year following his non-consensual kiss on midfielder Jenni Hermoso after Spain beat England in the Women’s World Cup final in Australia.

FIFA have since banned him from all football-related activity for three years, while a judge in Spain recommended the case go to trial on charges of sexual assault and coercion after taking testimony from Rubiales and Hermoso, among others.

A prosecutor at Spain’s High Court is seeking a prison sentence of up to 2.5 years, court documents seen by Reuters and EFE revealed in March.

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