WCup hospitality exec arrested in ticket probe

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) — A senior executive with the official World Cup corporate hospitality provider was arrested in a Rio de Janeiro hotel yesterday as part of a Brazilian police investigation into illegal ticket sales.

Ray Whelan, a director of Match Hospitality, was arrested at the upmarket Copacabana Palace Hotel, where senior FIFA officials are staying during the World Cup.

Rio police said Whelan was in custody and would spend the night in a Rio police station.

Police are investigating the illegal resale of World Cup tickets on the black market and arrested 11 people and seized 131 game tickets last week -- at least 70 of them corporate hospitality tickets.

Police said then that an Algerian man arrested as the suspected leader of the scalping ring had connections to FIFA or Match and the original source of the tickets to be sold illegally at hugely inflated prices was "someone higher up".

A spokesman for Match Hospitality didn't immediately reply to requests for comment. Match Hospitality is the main provider of hospitality packages for the World Cup and paid $240 million for the rights to sell corporate hospitality at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Re-selling World Cup tickets for profit is illegal in Brazil and against FIFA rules.

FIFA said earlier yesterday that it had provided police with lists of telephone numbers for its staff and that of its service providers, which included Match Hospitality. Match Hospitality earlier distanced itself from the ticket-scalping scandal in a statement.

"Match Hospitality will be fully assisting the police in investigating the matter," it said. "It is important to highlight that so far no Match Hospitality staff member has been implicated with anything."

Of the more than three million tickets for the tournament, 445,500 tickets were allocated to Match, according to FIFA. Any unsold or unused corporate hospitality tickets should be returned to FIFA to be made available to the public.

Police estimated last week that the scalping ring was making one million Brazilian reals ($455,000) per game by re-selling tickets on the black market. They were hoping to get $16,000 per ticket for the July 13 final in Rio, Inspector Fabio Barucke said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter's nephew, Philippe Blatter, is the president of a company which is a shareholder in Match Hospitality.




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