UK & World News
World Cup Ticket Scam: Briton On The Run
Ray Whelan, the British executive at the heart of a ticket-touting investigation, is considered to be "on the run" after he left his hotel "in a hurried manner" before police arrived to arrest him.
Mr Whelan, a director of Match Services, a subsidiary of the Byrom Group which owns Fifa's ticket and hospitality rights, is suspected of supplying tickets to a ticket-touting gang working at the World Cup.
He was first arrested on Monday on the basis of telephone taps in which he was heard discussing $25,000 (£14,500) cash deals for ticket packages with Lamine Fofana, an Algerian suspected of being the conduit for hundreds of tickets.
Mr Whelan was released on bail on Tuesday morning but on Thursday a judge approved an arrest warrant, a precursor to his being formally charged. Under the order he was to be taken into custody along with 10 other suspects.
Police went to his hotel, the Copacabana Palace, on Wednesday afternoon but found he had left by a staff entrance an hour earlier, at around 3pm local time.
His fugitive status came as Match Services promised to do all it could to assist the authorities in Brazil.
Police said in a statement: "Teams from the 18 Precinct (Flag Square), coordinated by the delegate Fabio Barucke, were at the Copacabana Palace Hotel on the afternoon of Thursday, to comply with probation warrant issued by the court against Raymond Whelan. According to the delegate, the English fled out the back door of the hotel and is now considered a fugitive."
Marcos Kac, the Rio de Janeiro investigating magistrate in charge of the inquiry, said they may ask for help from federal police in case Mr Whelan is considering leaving the city by private jet.
He surrendered his passport as a condition of his bail and is not permitted to leave the country.
Match has described the arrest of Mr Whelan as "arbitrary and illegal" and accuse the police of failing to understand the ticket and hospitality market.
In a statement Jaime Byrom, the chairman and founder of the Byrom Group, said: "Notwithstanding our belief that the action taken against Mr Whelan was illegal and baseless, Match Services and I personally remain totally committed to assist the authorities from the 18th Precinct or any other jurisdiction in Fifa's fight against illegal ticket sales."
As well as owning the rights to Fifa's hospitality operation, Match also supply ticketing and accommodations services, and run a ticket enforcement programme, effectively working with local authorities to clamp down on touts or unlicensed hospitality providers working in opposition to them.
Under Fifa rules it is illegal for anyone to sell an ordinary match ticket for above its cover price. Tickets provided by Match as part of corporate packages, however, can be sold at any price, as long as they are accompanied by an element of hospitality or accommodation.
Match say that in the telephone conversations with Fofana released to the media Mr Whelan is discussing unsold hospitality packages for all seven games at the Maracana in Rio, which have an approved price of $24,750.
While Fofana was banned from buying products from Match, they say Mr Whelan could not be expected to know that. They acknowledge that while cash deals are unusual it is not a breach of the rules.
Fofana and 10 other suspects were arrested with hundreds of tickets, including some in the name of former players and the son of a senior Fifa executive committee member.