RIO DE JANEIRO - A British World Cup ticketing executive accused of involvement with a scalping network blamed for fraud worth tens of millions of dollars turned himself in on Monday after a manhunt, authorities said. Ray Whelan, a director of FIFA partner Match Services, who had left his Rio hotel before police could detain him last Thursday, surrendered to a judge in the city, prosecutor Marcus Kac told AFP.
Police confirmed Whelan, 64, had been detained after turning himself in to examining magistrate Rosita Maria de Oliveira Netto. Authorities had been looking for Whelan after a judge ordered him and 10 other suspects to be held over a World Cup ticket fraud involving 1,000 tickets per match alleged to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
The group allegedly began its activities at the 2002 World Cup. Match Services AG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Byrom plc, a British-based company that has provided services to FIFA and World Cup Local Organizing Committees since 1994. Attempts by the company to mount legal challenges to the arrest order foundered.
Whelan had already been detained by Brazilian police last Monday, but was released the following day after paying 5,000 reais ($2,260) in bail. Police believe Whelan distributed free VIP tickets originally earmarked for non-governmental organizations, sponsors and players' relatives for resale via intermediaries.
"Whelan denied negotiating tickets with (fellow suspect) Franco-Algerian Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, his right-hand man, during the World Cup but we have proof of 900 calls between them during the event," police commissioner Fabio Barucke said last week. The pair are said to have discussed hospitality packages for games including Sunday's final, won by Germany. But Match Services has defended Whelan, saying he was innocent and that there was nothing illegal about the conversations.
The Zurich-based company says Whelan was discussing the sale of 24 hospitality packages at the correct price, though he rounded up the figure to $25,000 from $24,750 per package, and that the deal was never concluded. Whelan could face up to four years in jail if found to have been involved in activities including the illegal resale of tickets, associating with black marketeers and suspected money laundering.
Match dubbed Whelan's initial detention last week as arbitrary and illegal. It annulled all tickets purchased by Atlanta Sportif, Fofana's company, saying he had pledged not to undertake any reselling to clients. Atlanta Sportif had bought 105 seven-match packages for 121,750 dollars each, according to Match Hospitality.
Globo's G1 news portal quoted Whelan as having told his lawyer Fernando Fernandes that he could finally start seeking to clear his name. The suspects in the case face charges of organized crime, illegal ticket sales, corruption, money laundering and tax fraud. Match, the main provider of World Cup hospitality services, said last week that Whelan was voluntarily relinquishing his World Cup accreditation but that he had not committed any wrongdoing.