Police in Rio de Janeiro have declared Ray Whelan, the English director of FIFA’s ticket and hospitality partners MATCH, to be “a fugitive” after they attempted to re-arrest him as part of an investigation into ticket touting.
Officers arrived at the Copacabana Palace hotel with an arrest warrant, but Whelan was not there and police said they had CCTV footage of him leaving through a service door.
MATCH has stuck by Whelan and insisted he has played no part in any wrongdoing.
Rio police investigator Fabio Barucke told reporters outside the hotel: “He’s now considered a fugitive. We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door.”
The Copacabana Palace is also the hotel where all the senior FIFA executives are staying, and the latest police involvement is another embarrassment for the world governing body.
Jaime Byrom, executive chairman of MATCH, and Whelan’s brother-in-law, said in a statement released earlier on Thursday: “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 [police] or any other jurisdiction in FIFA’s fight against illegal ticket sales.”
Police first arrested Whelan, a former agent to Sir Bobby Charlton, earlier this week and seized 83 hospitality packages and tickets, a laptop, two mobile phones and US $1,300. He was released on bail after spending a night in custody.
MATCH said police recordings of mobile phone conversations between Whelan and an Algerian, Lamine Fofana, who police allege was the leader of the ticket-touting ring, only showed Whelan legitimately negotiating the sale of hospitality packages to Fofana.
MATCH admitted that offering the packages for cash was “highly unusual”, but said it was “permitted under the various terms and conditions”.
The company also said Whelan was unaware that MATCH had put a block on Fofana buying any more packages or tickets.
Barucke said they had recorded 900 calls between Whelan and Fofana since the World Cup began.