Allocation of TV money at heart of latest investigation into Fifa man.
Gorka Villar, son of FIFA vice-president Angel Villar and a member of the world federation’s new reform committee, has been accused of “pressure and extortion” by eight Uruguayan clubs.
Villar Jr is ceo of the South American confederation which has just committed itself to reform and reorganisation after being caught up in the FIFAGate investigation run by the United States Department of Justice.
He is one of CONMEBOL’s two delegates to the FIFA reform panel whose credibility as an independent body has been attacked from all sides because its membership comprises delegates selected by the six regional confederations. The other CONMEBOL representative on the committee is Wilmar Valdez, president of the Uruguayan federation.
Gorka Villar’s selection for the FIFA reform panel was controversial because his father, the long-serving head of the Spanish federation, is known to be resistant to pressure for reform and change within FIFA; Angel Villar is a vice-president of not only FIFA but of European federation UEFA.
The latest storm to erupt around Gorka Villar emanated from a complaint of corruption by the Uruguayan organized crime division concerning the relationship between CONMEBOL and Torneos y Competencias (also known as TyC) whose president, Alejandro Burzaco, is on $20m bail in the US over FIFAGate.
According to prosecutor Juan Gomez “Gorka Villar utilised pressure and extortion” in a dispute with former world club champions Penarol and seven other clubs: Juventud, Rentistas, Atlético Cerro, El Tanque Sisley, Cerro Largo, Racing and Miramar.
The clubs complained they were threatened with exclusion from South American club tournaments unless they withdrew a court complaint, initiated in 2013, that CONMEBOL was withholding monies due to clubs, players and federations. The court action had been undertaken in partnership with the Uruguayan players’ union.
Prosecutor Juan Gomez said the name of Gorka Villar, as “adviser” to CONMEBOL “appears repeatedly” in statements of complaint submitted by “several of the presidents of the clubs.”
The dispute burst into the open last Wednesday when the Uruguayan newspaper La Republica reported the clubs’ allegation of threats by Villar unless they withdrew a complaint of criminal activity against CONMEBOL.
Judge Adriana de los Santos, who specialises in organized crime cases, ordered an investigation into the allegations, including the role played by Villar who lives in Asuncion (Paraguay), where CONMEBOL has its headquarters.
Villar, a Bilbao-born Spanish lawyer, is reportedly paid $50,000 a month in the position of director general to which he was appointed only last December.
Previously, since 2011, Villar had been CONMEBOL’s legal director. In that role he had been involved in settling the original dispute after Penarol and Nacional led demands from Uruguayan clubs for an increased share of TV fees paid to CONMEBOL by Burzaco’s TyC.
A settlement was agreed at a meeting in January 2014 in the TyC offices in Buenos Aires.
The meeting was chaired by the late Julio Grondona, the Argentinian who was then senior vice-president of FIFA. It was also attended by Villar and by Eugenio Figueredo, who was then president of CONMEBOL and a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Officials from the clubs complained at the time to the Montevideo media that they had been threatened with expulsion from the Copa Libertadores unless they settled.
Later Figueredo is said to have told close associates: “If we don’t stop these complaints we’ll all be in trouble.”
On May 27 this year Figueredo was one of the seven men arrested in Zurich by Swiss police under the terms of the US FIFAGate indictment. He remains in detention in Switzerland pending a decision on the extradition application which could come later this week.
Nicolas Leoz, veteran former president of CONMEBOL, is under house arrest in Paraguay pending a court ruling on an extradition application from the US. He is one of 14 men, along with Figueredo, indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in the FIFAGate scandal.
Earlier this week US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch said that a further wave of arrests was to be expected.
Responses to the allegations have been sought from CONMEBOL and from the office of Francois Carrard, the Swiss lawyer who heads the FIFA reform committee.