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MATCH denies Whelan is a 'fugitive'

FIFA's official ticket and hospitality partner MATCH has denied its English director Ray Whelan is "a fugitive" from Brazilian police.

Detectives declared Whelan as a fugitive when he disappeared from his hotel via a service entrance minutes before police investigating illegal World Cup ticket sales arrived to re-arrest him.

MATCH said in a statement: "We do not believe that the term 'fugitive' is appropriate under the circumstances as he is presently with his lawyer. We understand that any accused in Brazil has the fundamental right to resist a coercion that he believes to be arbitrary and illegal.

"Ray Whelan has not yet been granted the due process of a fair trial. MATCH remains absolutely confident that any charges raised against Ray will be rebutted."

MATCH said it has not spoken to Whelan or his attorney, Fernando Fernandes, since they left the hotel and therefore cannot comment as to the circumstances.

The BBC has described how the company has been intertwined with FIFA for the past 20 years, since the 1994 World Cup, but has sailed under the radar of your average football fan.

Police have received recordings of mobile phone conversations between Whelan and an Algerian, Lamine Fofana, who is alleged to be the leader of the ticket touting ring, negotiating the sale of hospitality packages for $25,000 (14,605 pounds) each in cash.

MATCH admitted that offering the packages for cash was "highly unusual" but that it was "permitted under the various terms and conditions."

The company also said that 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.

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.

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