Monday 20 November 2017

British director of Fifa hospitality partner arrested in ticket touting probe

Police in Rio de Janeiro have arrested the chief executive of a Swiss hospitality and ticketing company in connection with an ongoing investigation over VIP ticket scalping at the World Cup.

Ray Whelan, of Switzerland-based Match Services, was arrested at the city's beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel as a result of a probe into the illegal resale of tickets for the ongoing tournament, police said.

Whelan's name, they added, came up repeatedly in telephone conversations and other documentation that last week led to the arrest of 11 people. At the time, Rio police said that the probe suggested a Fifa official had helped the detained ring of ticket scalpers.

According to Match Services' web site, the agency "is the professional services company appointed by Fifa to provide ticketing, accommodation and event information technology" to Fifa, soccer's governing body.

Police say the gang earned as much as $90m (£52m) per tournament and could have operated at four World Cups. The authorities believe some of the tickets were sold to foreign tourists.

A spokesman for Match could not immediately be contacted for comment on Whelan's arrest.

Earlier on Wednesday, Match said it had blocked the corporate hospitality packages of three companies and canceled those of another as a result of the probe.

The company said it canceled all packages purchased by Atlanta Sportif after their CEO, Lamine Fofana, was among the 11 arrested last week.

Packages held by Reliance Industries Ltd, Jet Set Sports and Pamodzi were blocked after tickets with their names were found in Fofana's possession, Match Hospitality said.

"(They) are to cooperate with Match Hospitality by helping the authorities with their enquiries regarding the hospitality packages with their names on them found in Mr. Fofana's possession," said Match.

"Failing that, Match Hospitality will cancel their tickets for the semi-final and the final."

Match added that its terms expressly prohibited the re-sale of tickets.

"Match Hospitality will continue to investigate and cooperate with all tickets seized by police, tracing their path to any illegal resale, and remains committed to preventing the illegal resale of 2014 FIFA World Cup tickets," it said.

Rio de Janeiro police said last week that Fofana, a French-Algerian national, had free access to restricted FIFA areas and received up to €330,000 per game by re-selling tickets.

The suspects face charges of money-laundering, illegal ticket touting and conspiracy.

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