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Friday 22 August 2014

Man freed amid Brazil ticket probe

Published 08/07/2014 | 14:35

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Chile football fans wait for touts with a sign written in Spanish that reads 'We buy tickets for Chile/Spain' (AP)

A senior executive with the official World Cup corporate hospitality provider who is suspected of involvement with a ticket-resale ring has been released.

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Ray Whelan, of Match Services, was arrested yesterday at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, the hotel used by Fifa officials during the World Cup.

Police have described him as the "facilitator" who allowed a large ring of touts to have access to tickets.

His lawyer Fernando Fernandes told reporters his arrest was "illegal and absurd".

Match said in a statement that it has complete confidence in Mr Whelan's innocence. "Match have complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws," it said.

He will not be allowed to leave Brazil.

He was detained for questioning after the earlier arrests of 11 people, including Algerian national Lamine Fofana.

Match said in a statement it has complete confidence in Mr Whelan's innocence and that he would return to work.

"Ray Whelan has been released from police custody and will assist the police with further inquiries," it said. "Match have complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws."

Mr Whelan is a longstanding executive with the Match group, run by Mexican brothers Jaime and Enrique Byrom, which has Fifa contracts to run accommodation, travel and IT services at the World Cup.

The Match Hospitality subsidiary paid 120 million US dollars (£70 million) for exclusive rights to sell and market more than 400,000 corporate hospitality packages for this World Cup.

Separately, Brazil's Federal Police said on its website that an Italian and a French citizen, who jointly run a travel agency, were arrested at the international airport in Sao Paulo yesterday.

The statement said the two were carrying 48 tickets for the semi-final and final matches - tickets which belonged to "one of the big sponsors" of the World Cup.

Asked if Mr Whelan's accreditation for the World Cup would be revoked, Fifa spokeswoman Delia Fischer said the sport's international governing body could not act until the full report from police was finished.

"We need all the proof," he said. "We want the matter solved quickly and investigated to its fullest extent."

Under Brazilian law, the 64-year-old may only be charged by prosecutors after they receive the complete police investigation, which officers have 30 days to complete.

Infront's president and CEO is Philippe Blatter, a nephew of Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

The company - whose subsidiary Host Broadcast Services also has the World Cup television production contract from Fifa - sought to distance its chief from the Rio case.

"Philippe Blatter does not hold any position with Match Hospitality," the company said. "Infront is fully supporting Match Hospitality in collaborating with the local authorities investigating in the matter."

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