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World Cup scalping suspect gets bail

SAO PAULO -- A Brazilian judge has granted bail to British executive Ray Whelan who was charged in an alleged World Cup ticket-scalping scheme.

Justice Marco Aurelio says the director of MATCH group that owned the rights to sell the soccer tournament hospitality packages must not leave Rio de Janeiro.

Aurelio ruled on Tuesday that Whelan was not a flight risk and should be released. He also says that prosecution claims that Whelan might be able to pressure the whistleblower in the case are just assumptions and not enough to keep him detained.

Whelan, a director of FIFA's ticketing and accommodation partners MATCH, had been held in the notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiro.

The 64-year-old, a former agent to Sir Bobby Charlton, has now been released according to Whelan's lawyer Fernando Fernandes.

"The judge showed that, more than only the capacity to organise a FIFA World Cup, we have a constitution that must be respected," said Fernandes.

Whelan's defence "will dedicate itself entirely to obtaining integral access to the evidence that has not been granted yet, in order that it may dismiss the accusations against Mr Whelan," said a statement from the lawyer.

Jaime Byrom, the MATCH executive chairman and Whelan's brother-in-law, said last month the decision to place him in custody in Bangu appeared ``extreme'' and that he was confident he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bangu Prison is home to some of Brazil's most dangerous criminals, including murderers, drugs traffickers and gang members but Whelan had been given a private cell.

Byrom said, "It does seem extreme for us to have a member of our company and our family in prison, least of all in a prison such as Bangu which is typically reserved for crimes such as drug-trafficking, murder and crimes against the state.

"I am absolutely confident the Brazilian legal system will clear him of any wrongdoing and we are very well-placed to assist the authorities with their inquiries."

Whelan was first arrested four weeks ago and released on bail, but he then disappeared from his hotel two weeks ago via a service entrance minutes before police investigating illegal World Cup ticket sales arrived to arrest him again.

Byrom -- one of the founders of the Stockport-based company which owns MATCH -- said Whelan had left the hotel on the advice of his lawyer.

The case against Whelan centres on mobile phone conversations between him and a French-Algerian, Lamine Fofana, who is alleged to be the leader of the ticket touting ring.

Police have released the recordings to the Brazilian media and Whelan can be heard negotiating the sale of 24 hospitality packages for $25,000 dollars (14,650 pounds) each -- the face value -- in cash, totalling $600,000 dollars (352,000 pounds).

Whelan works for MATCH Services, Match's accommodation company, but Byrom said he had been authorised to sell 30 packages that Match Services had been left with when a Brazilian hotel chain decided only to take up 12 of the 42 packages it had reserved.

Fofana had been blocked by MATCH Hospitality from purchasing packages the previous month, but Byrom said the fact Whelan worked for MATCH Services meant he would have had no knowledge of that fact.


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