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Russia plan squad purge for World Cup

Russia
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Hospitality exec released from jail

RIO DE JANEIRO -- A senior executive with the official World Cup corporate hospitality provider who is suspected of involvement with a ticket-scalping ring was released from prison early Tuesday.

Ray Whelan, of MATCH Services, was arrested Monday at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, the hotel used by FIFA officials during the World Cup.

Police have described Whelan as the "facilitator" who allowed a large ring of scalpers to have access to tickets.

His attorney Fernando Fernandes told reporters his arrest was "illegal and absurd."

MATCH said in a statement that it has complete confidence in Whelan's innocence and that he would return to work.

"Ray Whelan has been released from police custody and will assist the police with further inquiries," it said. "MATCH have complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws."

Whelan will not be allowed to leave Brazil.

He was detained for questioning after the earlier arrests of 11 people, including Algerian national Lamine Fofana.

Whelan is a longstanding executive with the MATCH group, run by Mexican brothers Jaime and Enrique Byrom, which has FIFA contracts to run accommodation, travel and IT services at the World Cup.

The MATCH Hospitality subsidiary paid $120 million for exclusive rights to sell and market more than 400,000 corporate hospitality packages for this World Cup.

Separately, Brazil's Federal Police said on its website that an Italian and a French citizen, who jointly run a travel agency, were arrested at the international airport in Sao Paulo on Monday.

The statement said the two were carrying 48 tickets for the semifinal and final matches -- tickets which belonged to "one of the big sponsors" of the World Cup. The statement didn't identify the sponsor, and a spokeswoman said police had no immediate comment beyond the statement.

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