Official in ticket scalping case gives up World Cup credential, employer says arrest illegal

  • Article by: GRAHAM DUNBAR , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 9, 2014 - 5:11 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO — The director of a World Cup hospitality company implicated in ticket scalping surrendered his tournament credentials on Thursday.

The MATCH group, which owns rights to sell World Cup hospitality tickets, says Ray Whelan denies wrongdoing.

MATCH acknowledged Whelan and Algerian national Lamine Fofana discussed cash sales of World Cup final tickets for $25,000 in telephone calls wiretapped by Rio de Janeiro police.

"The 24 hospitality packages were offered on cash basis, which is highly unusual but permitted under the various terms and conditions," MATCH said in a statement. "It must be noted that Mr. Whelan was not aware of the fact that MATCH Hospitality had internally blocked sales to Mr. Fofana.

The tickets being offered had originally been requested by a Rio de Janeiro hotel chain which reduced its order by $594,000 in May, MATCH said.

MATCH challenged police to justify the "arbitrary and illegal" arrest of Whelan, a director of MATCH's accommodation service. He is a brother-in-law of company founders Jaime and Enrique Byrom.

Whelan was detained at a Rio hotel on Monday by police who seized tickets for World Cup matches. He was released early Tuesday.

MATCH "surmises" that 83 tickets Whelan had were for personal use by company management and shareholders.

Police suspect Whelan supplied Fofana's group that it says was re-selling World Cup tickets for a profit, which is illegal in Brazil.

Also Wednesday, Brazil's state-run news agency Agencia Brasil reported Wednesday that a state court judge in Rio de Janeiro declined a defense attorney's request to free Lamine Fofana, who remains in custody in connection to the ongoing investigation into an illegal World Cup ticket selling ring. Another 10 suspects also remain in custody.

FIFA said it was unable comment on any aspect of the case before receiving a police report.

"We have no details of the investigation and no details of the tickets," FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said at a briefing.

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