Police: Ray Whelan now a fugitive
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian police on Thursday said they consider as a fugitive the director of a World Cup hospitality company implicated in a ticket scalping scheme.
Investigator Fabio Barucke said that Ray Whelan left the lavish Copacabana Palace through a service entry about an hour before police arrived to re-arrest him. Police accuse Whelan as being the main source of World Cup tickets that were sold to an Algerian national they label as the biggest scalper of Cup tickets.
"He's now considered a fugitive," Barucke said outside the hotel. "We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door."
He said police expect to broaden their investigation into ticket scalping to include football administrators.
In an earlier detailed statement, Match Services denied any wrongdoing by Whelan, and said he was willing to cooperate with any investigation, confident that it would exonerate him of any wrongdoing.
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.
However, Barucke told the AP in an hour-long, exclusive interview late Wednesday night that he's formally requesting that a judge consider the action of Whelan and at least 11 others already arrested in the alleged scalping scheme of having formed a criminal conspiracy -- which could result in significant jail time.
That would "give a shot of adrenaline" to the police investigation, Barucke said, adding that authorities had recorded about 50,000 phone calls of suspected scalpers in Rio de Janeiro, recordings that started about a month before the Cup began.
"We've only analyzed about 25,000 of those calls," Barucke said, adding that he's extremely confident that football officials will also be implicated.
The MATCH group, which owns rights to sell World Cup hospitality packages, has acknowledged that Whelan and Algerian national Lamine Fofana discussed cash sales of final tickets for $25,000 in telephone calls wiretapped by Rio de Janeiro police -- but say those were packages that included not just tickets but VIP services, hence the high price.
"The 24 hospitality packages were offered on cash basis, which is highly unusual but permitted under the various terms and conditions," MATCH said in a statement. "It must be noted that Mr. Whelan was not aware of the fact that MATCH Hospitality had internally blocked sales to Mr. Fofana."
Barucke said in the AP interview that police recorded 900 calls between Whelan and Fofana since the World Cup began June 12 -- and that virtually all of them referred to the selling of tickets.
"Raymond knew that Fofana was a scalper, he knew that he was going to resell those tickets on the black market," Barucke said.
Earlier this week, MATCH challenged police to justify the "arbitrary and illegal" arrest of Whelan, a director of MATCH's accommodation service. He is a brother-in-law of company founders Jaime and Enrique Byrom.
On Monday, Whelan was detained at the Copacabana Palace by police who seized tickets for World Cup matches. He was released early Tuesday.