World Cup tickets scalping allegedly netted British director of Match Hospitality Raymond Whelan nearly $1 million, but Brazil won’t be letting him go until they get it back, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Whelan was released Wednesday after spending a night in police custody on the condition that he pay $2,250 bail and turn in his passport to prevent any possible escape. Police arrested Whelan after they found 82 World Cup tickets in his hotel room and bugged phone calls of Whelan negotiating with other scalpers.
One of the oddest details of the case are the group of policeman who discovered the scalping ring: a low-level Rio de Janeiro police force who needed journalists to explain the key figures in the scandal to them in order to follow through with the investigation, according to national Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
“How did a bunch of poor policemen from Brazil do it?” the lead inspector said Monday before cursing dumbfoundedly. “I don’t know!”
Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has a contract with Whelan’s company until 2023 to provide hotel room and game packages for the next two world cup events. The organization has already taken a hit to its reputation for accusations that it took bribes to give hosting privileges for the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and it is not helped by the fact that the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter is the CEO of a company with a 5 percent stake in Match Hospitality.
Whelan’s arrest took place in front of the iconic Copacabana Hotel in Rio. His exit was heavily documented by local journalists, which has caused Whelan’s lawyer Fernando Augusto Fernandes to call it a case of media frenzy. Fernandes maintains that all of the recovered tickets were for Whelan or his relatives.
“This arrest by the police is a media stunt,” Fernandes said. “There’s no proof against Raymond.”
Whelan’s fate will now play out in Brazilian courts for his World Cup ticket scalping offense. Federico Paiva, lead investigator for the attorney general, said he has already found additional evidence in his investigation, including bundling of hotel rooms and World Cup tickets that is illegal under Brazilian law. Complaints have been mounting as late as last year when Brazil’s antitrust regulation CADE first received denouncements against the company’s “price fixing” practices for World Cup rooms.
“So far, Match hasn’t cooperated with us,” Paiva said. “All the information we requested, Match said was confidential.”
Match has issued a statement denying that it has not been forthright in the investigation process, along with another stating it believes the evidence will exonerate Whalen even in the face of the World Cup ticket scalping scandal.