Luis Rubiales, the former president of the Spanish national soccer federation (RFEF), was arrested yesterday (April 3) as part of a corruption investigation.

Rubiales, who is accused of receiving illegal commissions during the process of negotiating a deal to stage the Spanish Super Cup club competition in Saudi Arabia, was released soon after his detention on arrival in Madrid from the Dominican Republic, where he had been when police searched his home last month.

Prosecutors are seeking a two-and-a-half-year jail term, and have said that Wednesday’s operation was part of a wider investigation into allegations of corruption in business, improper management of assets, and money laundering. Rubiales – who stepped down as RFEF president last September, over a separate issue – denies any misconduct.

The probe is linked to allegations of corruption and money laundering after the Super Cup was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020, in a deal reportedly worth more than €40 million ($43.7 million) per year. The current hosting deal in the Kingdom is set to last until 2029.

Spanish authorities raided 11 premises across the country in March, including the RFEF headquarters in Las Rozas on the outskirts of Madrid, and Rubiales’ home in Granada.

Spanish prosecutors said they expected seven people to be arrested in total as part of the operation.

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A month before the investigation began, a Spanish news website published leaked audio of conversations between Rubiales and former Barcelona player, Gerard Piqué, in which they seemingly discussed millions of dollars in commissions for taking the Spanish Super Cup to the Gulf kingdom.

The recordings, which were brought to light by the El Confidencial newspaper, put Pique – a senior player at heavyweights Barcelona at the time – and his Kosmos firm (set up in 2017 to handle Pique’s commercial affairs) in the spotlight as they seemed to outline a commission payment of €24 million made to Kosmos for helping to set up the six-year deal between the RFEF and the Saudi soccer authorities.

The Super Cup deal, struck in 2019, also expanded what had been a one-game competition to a four-match affair featuring four teams (the LaLiga and Copa del Rey winners, as well as the beaten Copa del Rey finalists and second-placed LaLiga team).

The deal came to €240 million in total, with Kosmos reportedly securing a 10% commission out of that sum.

Article 24 in the RFEF’s statutes makes it clear that the federation should not pay a commission to any entity for setting up commercial deals it has involvement in.

Pique and Rubiales have denied any wrongdoing, with the latter claiming that the RFEF and the Saudis negotiated together directly and that there was no commission paid.

Rubiales was forced to step down as RFEF president in September for forcibly kissing Spanish player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the winners' medals collection ceremony after Spain beat England 1-0 to claim their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in mid-2023.

The 46-year-old was subsequently handed a three-year ban from all soccer-related activities by the sport's governing body FIFA.

He is now awaiting trial at Spain’s highest criminal court for alleged sexual assault and coercion – a charge he denies.