Luis Rubiales, Former Spanish Soccer Chief, Faces Arrest

Luis Rubiales, the disgraced former Spanish soccer head who was forced out after kissing a female player against her will, faces new legal troubles after the Spanish police were given permission to arrest him as part of a wide-ranging investigation into accusations of corruption and money laundering.

Investigators from the Spanish civil guard carried out a series of raids Tuesday, including searches at the headquarters of the Spanish soccer federation on the outskirts of Madrid and at a home owned by Mr. Rubiales in the southern city of Granada.

The public prosecutor’s office in Madrid said 11 homes and a number of other buildings were searched as part of an investigation into what it described as “alleged criminal acts associated with corruption in business, unfair administration and money laundering.”

Seven people were arrested on Tuesday, but Mr. Rubiales was not among them. He was in the Dominican Republic but is expected to return to Spain on April 6, according to a letter sent to the presiding judge by his lawyer. Spain’s civil guard has been authorized to arrest him upon arrival in Spain if necessary.

Mr. Rubiales’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Investigators are looking into contracts related to the federation’s sale of lucrative rights to a prominent soccer tournament, the Spanish Super Cup, to Saudi Arabia in a deal brokered by one of Spain’s most celebrated players, Gerard Piqué.

Mr. Rubiales is also under investigation on allegations of hiring detectives to spy on the head of Spain’s players’ union; misusing federation funds to pay for personal expenses; and hosting a sex party, paid for with federation funds, in Granada in 2020 — all claims that emerged after official complaints were made to prosecutors.

Mr. Rubiales, once one of the most powerful men in world soccer, saw his career collapse in the wake of his actions after Spain’s triumph at the Women’s World Cup final in Australia last year. In front of tens of thousands of fans in Sydney’s Stadium Australia and millions more watching on television, Rubiales planted an unwanted kiss on the mouth of the Spain midfielder Jennifer Hermoso on the medals stand.

The episode resulted in an outcry in Spain and beyond, and a criminal complaint filed by Ms. Hermoso weeks after the tournament. That complaint allowed the Spanish authorities to open a case against Mr. Rubiales, and in January she testified at a hearing to determine if he would be charged with sexual assault and coercion.

In January, a judge found enough evidence of wrongdoing to recommend that Mr. Rubiales face trial over the kiss and the subsequent coercion of Ms. Hermoso. If found guilty of sexual assault, he could be punished with one to four years in prison.

Mr. Rubiales, who had initially — and defiantly — refused to surrender his position as the head of Spain’s federation amid the furor over the kiss, eventually resigned after he was provisionally suspended by soccer’s global governing body, FIFA. He was later barred from the sport for three years.

Even before news that Mr. Rubiales may be arrested upon his return to Spain, it quickly became apparent that he would be a central focus for investigators. In images broadcast on Spanish television, officers could be seen carrying a box labeled with Mr. Rubiales’s name among the items seized from the property in Granada.

The police operation was the latest turn in the stunning fall from grace for Mr. Rubiales, whose influence in soccer once extended beyond Spain’s borders. At the time of his resignation, just weeks before his FIFA ban, he was a vice president of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, and one of the leaders of Spain’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup with Portugal and Morocco.

But even before his ouster, he had faced questions about his conduct. Bald and brash, Mr. Rubiales first attracted international attention only months into his tenure as federation president when he fired the men’s national team coach only days before its first game at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

He later engaged in a yearslong public feud with Javier Tebas, the equally outspoken president of Spain’s top soccer league, and drew criticism for backing the Spanish women’s coach, Jorge Vilda, in the midst of a revolt by the squad’s players.

In 2022, a leak of text and voice messages involving Mr. Rubiales and Mr. Piqué drew the attention of the Spanish police because of their mention of commissions paid to Mr. Piqué, still an active player at the time.

It was then that details emerged of the multiyear deal between Spain’s federation and Saudi Arabia in which the Gulf nation would pay 40 million euros annually (about $43 million) to host an expanded version of the Super Cup. The most stunning revelation was the involvement of Mr. Piqué, through his holding company Kosmos, in brokering the deal, and the commission — 10 percent, or just over $4 million a year — that he was set to receive for his role.

Mr. Piqué, who was a defender for the Spanish club F.C. Barcelona, and who would go on to appear in the relocated event before his retirement in late 2022, denied wrongdoing at the time. It is unclear if he will be questioned as part of the current police investigation.

A different Spanish soccer official, Miguel Ángel Galán, who leads the country’s national training center for coaches, was the principal complainant in the Super Cup investigation. In an interview with a Spanish television broadcaster on Wednesday, Mr. Galán, who denounced the Super Cup contracts and the commission paid to Mr. Piqué in statements to prosecutors, demanded the money be returned.

The commission, Mr. Galán noted, was more than what at least one of the participating clubs earned.

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