SAO PAULO (AP) — The whereabouts of a “fugitive” hospitality executive accused of being a top figure in an illegal World Cup ticket-scalping scheme remain unknown, and Rio de Janeiro police said Friday they have alerted federal officers and Interpol in the event he tries to flee Brazil.
Ray Whelan, an executive with the MATCH group, left the Copacabana Palace hotel in Rio de Janeiro through a service entrance about an hour before police arrived to re-arrest him Thursday. He had been detained on Monday, but released on bail hours later.
Investigator Fabio Barucke said Whelan is considered a fugitive.
“We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door,” Barucke said.
In a statement Friday, MATCH said it understood that Whelan’s previous release did not restrict his movements, provided he stayed in Brazil.
“We do not believe that the term ‘fugitive’ is appropriate under the circumstances as he is presently with his lawyer,” the statement said. “We understand that any accused in Brazil has the fundamental right to resist a coercion that he believes to be arbitrary and illegal.”
MATCH said it had not spoken to Whelan or his attorney, Fernando Fernandes, since they left the hotel and therefore could not comment as to the circumstances.
The MATCH group, which owns rights to sell World Cup hospitality packages, denied any wrongdoing by Whelan, and said he was willing to cooperate with any investigation.
Police say Whelan was the main source of World Cup tickets that were sold to Algerian national Lamine Fofana, who they say is the biggest scalper for the sport’s marquee tournament.
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.
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 — which could result in significant jail time.
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.