19th May 2024
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Rubiales briefly detained at airport on return to Spain in corruption probe

The disgraced former president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, who kissed a player on the lips without her consent at the Women’s World Cup final, was briefly detained on Wednesday as part of a separate corruption probe by Spanish police before being released.

Spain’s Guardia Civil said that Rubiales was questioned by police at Madrid’s Barajas airport after he was detained on exiting the plane that brought him back home from the Dominican Republic. In images captured by La Sexta TV (see Tweet below), Rubiales disembarked from the plane under a police escort before being questioned inside the airport. He was released a few hours later. An investigative judge is expected to summon him for more questioning in the coming days.

Rubiales was returning to Spain amid an investigation into business deals while he ran the RFEF, 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 a property belonging to him in the city of Granada (Andalusia) and the offices of the RFEF in Madrid. Seven people were arrested before being released and Rubiales was identified as one of five additional individuals under investigation. ALSO READ: Spain’s Football Federation sacks directors linked to corruption investigation.

The corruption and money laundering investigation is looking into contracts for the Spanish Super Cup and the federation’s links with Seville’s La Cartuja Stadium, which hosts the Copa del Rey final and some international games, among other deals.

Rubiales stepped down as president of the RFEF in September after causing an international scandal for kissing Spain player Jenni Hermoso without her consent at the Women’s World Cup final. He is facing a trial for allegedly sexually assaulting Hermoso. He has denied any wrongdoing in that case. ALSO READ: Spanish prosecutors seek 2.5 year sentence for Rubiales’ World Cup kiss and coercion.

Rubiales cut short his stay abroad by three days. He had originally told the court that he was coming back on Saturday.

During his time as president of the RFEF, 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 that was reportedly worth €40 million per tournament for the federation.

Prosecutors opened a probe of that deal in 2022 following leaked audio between Rubiales and then-Barcelona player Gerard Piqué regarding millions of dollars in commissions. Piqué’s sports entertainment company Kosmos was involved in the deal with the federation and Saudi Arabia. Spanish media has reported that no employee of Kosmos has been detained or placed under investigation and no property of the company has been raided. ALSO READ: Gerard Piqué in spotlight over €24m Spanish Super Cup deal in Saudi Arabia.

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

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

Rubiales, 46, is a former player who ran Spain’s main players union before he was elected to run the federation in 2018 when he replaced Ángel Maria Villar, who was in power for nearly three decades before he was investigated for corruption.

Rubiales shored up internal support by boosting revenues for the RFEF and spreading them around. He worked his way up to UEFA vice-president and played a part in securing the joint bid by Spain, Portugal and Morocco to co-host the 2030 men’s World Cup.

Hours after Rubiales was arrested, his successor and interim federation president, Pedro Rocha, stepped down after calling for federation elections on 6 May to choose new leadership.

In the statement announcing the elections, the RFEF said it would collaborate with the judicial investigation so that the institution could ‘leave behind a convulsive period that has seriously damaged the image of Spanish football’.

ALSO READ: Luis Rubiales to face trial for kissing Jenni Hermoso at Women’s World Cup.

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