Police in Sydney say they are willing to work with Spanish authorities and assist with an investigation “where required” if they receive a report over Luis Rubiales grabbing and kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso during last month’s Women’s World Cup.
Rubiales on Monday resigned as the head of Spain’s football federation after almost a month of controversy over the incident at Stadium Australia in Sydney on 20 August that was watched live by millions of football fans around the world.
Spanish prosecutors in late August launched a preliminary investigation into whether Rubiales’s unsolicited kiss could constitute sexual assault and Hermoso later made a criminal complaint with them accusing him of sexual assault.
New South Wales police said on Monday they were ready to assist if a report was lodged.
“A report has not been referred to NSW police; however, if received, officers will liaise with international authorities and assist where required,” a police spokesperson said.
The Spanish prosecutor’s office said on Friday a complaint had been filed with the country’s high court and there could be grounds to charge the former football chief with sexual assault as well as coercion.
Spain’s high court includes a division with powers to probe alleged crimes that take place outside of Spain’s borders but which involve Spanish nationals.
In order for this to happen, Spanish law stipulates that three conditions must be met: the alleged crime must be punishable in the country in which it has occurred, the victim or prosecutors must have filed a complaint with Spanish courts, and the accused cannot have already been sentenced, pardoned or absolved for the same crime.
The prosecutor in Spain said they had urged the Spanish court to ask Australian authorities for more information regarding “crimes against sexual liberty” and what kinds of penalties these crimes could incur. This information is likely key to determining whether Spain’s high court has the jurisdiction to take on the case.
In a statement published five days after the incident, Hermoso said it had left her feeling “vulnerable and a victim of aggression”.
She described the kiss as an “impulsive act, sexist, out of place and without any type of consent from my part”.
Rubiales announced on Monday he had decided to step down as the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation and as a Uefa vice-president.
“After the rapid suspension by Fifa, and the rest of the proceedings against me, it’s clear that I cannot return to my post,” he said in a statement.
Rubiales said he planned to clear his name. “I believe in the truth and I will do everything in my power to make sure it prevails,” he said.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier in September, Spain’s acting equality minister said the kiss was just one instance of the abuse suffered by millions of women around the world.
Irene Montero described the incident as a “lower-intensity” form of sexual violence that is often invisible and normalised in society.
Aitor Hernández-Morales, a journalist for Politico in Madrid, said on Monday it was unclear what would come out of the prosecutor’s investigation but there were questions over whether Spanish courts could have jurisdiction outside the country.
“You have a number of legal factors that could complicate it, the main one being that the alleged crime that is being investigated took place outside of Spain’s borders,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“There is certainly going to be a series of challenges there based on jurisdiction. It’s certainly a test for Spain just in terms of that very legal side of how jurisdiction is applied.”
A spokesperson for the NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, said all complaints were taken seriously, “however, a report must be made for NSW police to commence an investigation”. No such report had yet been made, they added.
NSW police can investigate alleged assaults without a complaint from a victim but do so sparingly – most often in cases of alleged domestic violence or involving special circumstances.
Factors to be considered included the perceived seriousness of the incident, the potential for charges to be laid and the likelihood of a successful prosecution, a police source said.