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Spanish soccer federation fires executives linked to corruption probe

SPAIN’S soccer federation (RFEF) fired two executives it said were linked to a multimillion-euro corruption probe, adding that the case had caused “very serious damage” to the sport’s image in the country.

Pedro Gonzalez Segura, director of legal services, and Jose Javier Jimenez, director of human resources, had been removed from their positions, RFEF said in a statement.

The federation “opened disciplinary proceedings and has removed from their jobs and functions the managers related to the legal case,” the RFEF added.

It is the second scandal in less than a year to rock Spain’s top football body, coming after former President Luis Rubiales was forced to step down for an unsolicited kiss on the lips of Spain player Jenni Hermoso after the Women’s World Cup final.

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Interim President Pedro Rocha, who previously served as chair of the RFEF’s economic commission, had been expected to announce his candidacy on Wednesday to replace Rubiales after stepping down as head of the Extremadura region federation.

The RFEF had summoned other regional federation presidents to a board meeting on Wednesday that was cancelled after police turned up at its headquarters.

The federation also terminated a contract with its external legal counsel Tomas Gonzalez Cueto of GC Legal, revoking his powers to represent the federation in legal cases, along with his partner Ramon Caravaca.

Reuters has so far been unable to contact the sacked executives and has asked GC Legal for comment.

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Police on Wednesday searched the federation’s headquarters and an apartment belonging to Rubiales, arresting seven people as part of an investigation over alleged corruption that includes a deal to relocate the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

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They also searched La Cartuja football stadium in Seville, according to a source close to the investigation.

Seville’s city hall said in a statement its offices had been searched and that it had handed over documents signed in 2021 by former Mayor Juan Espadas related to the hosting of the Copa del Rey final at La Cartuja.

Refurbishing the outdated, state-owned La Cartuja was one of Rubiales’s biggest projects. He sealed several deals with the Andalusian government regarding the stadium, making it the permanent venue for the Copa del Rey final and for several Spain national team matches from 2020.

The Andalusian regional government, which owns 40% of the stadium, has paid a total of 8.4 million euros ($9.12 million) to the federation since 2020, according to information on its website.

It said on Thursday the refurbishment works at La Cartuja “are all lawful” and that it was fully cooperating with investigators.

A Spanish court has been investigating since June 2022 if Rubiales committed a crime of improper management when the RFEF agreed with former Barcelona player Gerard Pique’s Kosmos firm to move the tournament, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

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Rubiales, who is currently in the Dominican Republic, did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment but he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

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In an interview with El Espanol newspaper published on Thursday, Rubiales said he would cooperate with the investigation.

“I have never done anything wrong. I will answer everything,” he was quoted as saying by El Espanol.

A court source said his lawyers told the judge he would return from the Dominican Republic on April 6.

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By The African Mirror

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