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Spain council suspends FA president Angel Maria Villar for year after arrest

Angel Maria Villar talks during the 64th FIFA Congress at the Transamerica Expo Center in Sao Paulo.
Angel Maria Villar's presidency of the Spanish FA has been suspended.

Spain's highest sports authority suspended the president of the Spanish Football Federation on Tuesday, a week after his arrest in an anti-corruption investigation.

The Higher Council of Sport removed Angel Maria Villar from the federation presidency on Tuesday, pending the outcome of the investigation which has landed him in prison without bail and rocked Spanish football.

Council president Jose Ramon Lete says Villar and vice president Juan Padron, also arrested last Tuesday, were suspended for one year. Lete says their suspensions could be revised "depending on the facts that come out."

Villar's uninterrupted 29-year-reign of the federation ends one week after he, his son Gorka Villar, Padron, and another football official, Ramon Hernandez, were detained by police during raids of the national federation headquarters and other properties.

Seeing no sign that Villar was willing to step down from the post he has held since 1988, Spain's government decided to remove him in an attempt to limit the damage done to the national sport.

Court documents indicate that besides misappropriated funds, Villar allegedly corrupted several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Council president Jose Ramon Lete said the 14-member board voted unanimously to suspend Villar and Padron. The federation will hold a general assembly on Wednesday to determine how it will go forward without its longtime boss.

The scandal also has repercussions for football beyond Spain's borders. Beside his important role at FIFA, Villar is also a UEFA vice president and has been at the heart of both governing bodies since the 1990s. He has worked closely with international football leaders who have since been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department, and was singled out for questionable conduct in the 2014 FIFA report on the World Cup bidding process.

Villar was denied bail last Thursday and transferred from a police jail to the Soto del Real prison after being questioned by National Court judge Santiago Pedraz, who cited flight risks after detailing how Villar allegedly misappropriated private and public funds "at least since 2009."

In a 44-page ruling that included several quotes from phone taps carried out by police, Pedraz detailed why state prosecutors allege that Villar used his influence as federation president to funnel private and public funds into regional federations in exchange for votes to remain in power for eight consecutive terms.

The state prosecutor also suspects Villar used his control of the television rights for Spain's friendly matches to secure economic benefits for his son Gorka, a sports lawyer who has worked for CONMEBOL under three presidents who were all implicated in corruption cases.

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