By Brian Homewood
Ray Whelan, the chief executive of a hospitality firm arrested in connection with an investigation into VIP ticket scalping at the World Cup, was released on Tuesday after spending the night in custody.
His company, MATCH, said the Englishman was released in Rio de Janeiro and that he will assist police with further enquiries.
“MATCH have complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws,” it said in a statement, adding that Whelan would continue with his work at the World Cup.
“MATCH will continue to fully support all police investigations, which we firmly believe will fully exonerate Ray.”
Whelan was arrested at Rio’s beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel as a result of Operation Jules Rimet in which 12 people have been arrested following investigations into the illegal resale of tickets for the tournament.
The investigation has further sullied the reputation of world soccer’s governing body FIFA, which was already facing allegations of bribery surrounding Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Rio de Janeiro police said in a statement that Whelan will expected to appear for further questioning at a date to be arranged.
He has been charged under the Brazilian Supporters’ Statute with “supplying or facilitating the distribution of tickets for a price that is superior to the one printed on the ticket.”
MATCH is the main provider of hospitality packages for the World Cup and paid $240 million for the exclusive rights to sell corporate hospitality at the 2010 World Cup and this one.
It has a contract with FIFA until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
MATCH has been appointed by FIFA to provide ticketing, accommodation and event information technology at the World Cup.
“FIFA continues to fully co-operate with the local authorities and will provide any details requested to insist with this ongoing investigation,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said, reading from a statement.
“FIFA wants to reiterate as mentioned on various occasions that our firm stands against any form of violation of criminal law and is fully supporting the security authorities in our joint efforts to clamp down on any unauthorised ticket sales.
“We cannot comment further on this ongoing investigation regarding operation Jules Rimet which is led by the local authorities.”
Philippe Blatter, the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, is the president of Infront, a company which has a five percent stake in MATCH Hospitality, one of the two arms of MATCH.
“Infront Sports & Media (Infront) or any of its employees are not involved at all with MATCH Services, service provider for accommodation, IT and ticketing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and/or with Byrom PLC,” Infront said in a statement.
“Infront is a percent minority shareholder of MATCH Hospitality, the rights holder for the official Hospitality Programme at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Infront’s President & CEO Philippe Blatter does not hold any position with MATCH Hospitality.
“Infront is fully supporting MATCH Hospitality in collaborating with the local authorities investigating the matter.”