Luis Rubiales arrested on arrival in Spain over Saudi Arabia corruption investigation

Police stand guard at the baggage area of Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport
Police stand guard at the baggage area of Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport - Reuters/Susana Vera

Luis Rubiales was arrested upon arriving at an airport in Madrid on Wednesday morning, in connection with a corruption investigation.

The former president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), who was travelling to Spain from the Dominican Republic, is suspected by police of receiving illegal commissions when negotiating for the Spanish Super Cup to be staged in Saudi Arabia. He denies any wrongdoing.

Footage has emerged on Spanish television of the 46-year-old being escorted into a black Civil Guard vehicle on the tarmac at the airport in Spain’s capital. A large group of journalists had gathered at the airport’s arrivals point, but Rubiales was whisked away by the authorities prior to that and therefore never walked through the arrivals lounge.

The arrest was made just after 10.30am local time at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, shortly after the Air Europa flight from the Dominican Republic landed.

Rubiales was released later on Wednesday, shortly after being detained.

Spanish media reported on Wednesday afternoon that he had been released following questioning, but the investigation remains ongoing.

Prosecutors are reportedly seeking a two-and-a-half-year jail term for Rubiales. They will now have 72 hours to question him.

His home was searched by investigators in March. That home in Granada, along with the RFEF’s offices in Madrid, were searched and seven people were detained by police.

Investigators are also examining whether Rubiales benefited financially from a company owned by another former footballer, Francisco Javier Martín, known as ‘Nene’, which received more than half a million euros from firms that won contracts with the RFEF.

Rubiales and Martín, who were both lower-tier professional footballers in the early 2000s, are associates in the hotel business. According to media reports, a police search of Martín’s office in the Hotel Urban Dream in Granada last month uncovered €300,000 in cash.

Spanish police on Monday searched Rubiales’s accommodation in the Dominican Republic on the orders of a judge investigating alleged corruption during his five-year period in charge of RFEF from 2018 to 2023.

Officers from Spain’s organised crime unit reportedly seized a mobile phone and a tablet belonging to Rubiales.

The former RFEF president had planned to return to Spain on Saturday but decided to bring forward his return, describing the investigation into his business dealings as “lies”.

“The information in the media about the money I had in my accounts is mistaken. The money is the product of my work and my savings,” he said.

In a separate matter, Rubiales is scheduled to go on trial for alleged sexual assault after kissing Jenni Hermoso, the Spanish women’s national team footballer, on the lips in the aftermath of August 2023’s Women’s World Cup final in Sydney. Hermoso, who had a penalty saved during that final against England, has repeatedly stated that she did not consent to that kiss, while Rubiales has repeatedly claimed that she did agree to the kiss. He denies the claim of sexual assault.

Rubiales resigned from the RFEF after widespread condemnation of his antics at the final, having initially refused to step down.

In February, Fifa, the world’s governing body for football, upheld a three-year ban on Rubiales being involved in the sport in any way. He had appealed against that ban.