RIO DE JANEIRO – A top figure in an alleged illegal World Cup ticket-scalping scheme surrendered to Brazilian officials Monday, four days after police labeled him a fugitive, his lawyer said.
Ray Whelan, a British executive with the MATCH group, which owned the rights to sell World Cup hospitality packages, is accused by police of providing World Cup tickets to an Algerian businessman, Lamine Fofana, whom authorities have called the top ticket scalper at this year's Cup, which ended Sunday.
Whelan had been arrested by Rio de Janeiro police last week, but freed hours later on bail. A police investigator then obtained a new warrant for his arrest late last week, but Whelan left the Copacabana Hotel where he was staying just minutes before authorities arrived to take him into custody again.
In an emailed statement, Whelan's lawyer, Fernando Fernandes, said Whelan turned himself over to the judge in charge of overseeing the case against him and was placed in a holding cell. Police were expected to take custody of Whelan and transfer him to jail.
The MATCH group has denied any wrongdoing by Whelan in a series of written statements and said he was willing to cooperate with any investigation.
Under Brazilian law, selling tickets for sporting events above face value is illegal. But it's a crime that normally results in a fine of about $225 and no prison sentence.
Chief investigator Fabio Barucke said he has formally requested that a judge consider the actions of Whelan and at least 11 others already arrested in the alleged scalping scheme of having formed a criminal conspiracy, a charge that carry significant jail time.
Barucke has also told The Associated Press that police have 50,000 tapped phone calls related to World Cup ticket scalping, but that police have listened to only half of the calls they have archived. He said he expects his investigation to reveal that FIFA officials and authorities from Brazil's national football confederation also funneled tickets to known scalpers in return for a share of the illegal profits.