Brazil police chasing ticket executive in World Cup probe

Rio de Janerio: Police in Rio de Janeiro were searching on Thursday for the chief executive of a Swiss hospitality company implicated by a World Cup ticket scalping investigation.

After a court ordered the arrest of the executive and the continued detention of 10 other suspects already held in the probe, police were unable to find Ray Whelan, of MATCH Services, a company contracted by tournament organisers to arrange ticketing and hospitality packages.

Whelan, who was briefly arrested earlier in the week and released pending a court order, was not present when police arrived at the Copacabana Palace, the luxurious beachside hotel where he had been staying in Rio along with many tournament organisers.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Whelan was seen leaving through a back door before they arrived.

Earlier on Thursday, a Rio court had approved the detention of Whelan and the other suspects, who are believed to have run a scalping ring for World Cup tickets originally allocated to soccer federations and other VIPs.

The probe comes as pressure mounts on FIFA, soccer`s governing body, over accusations of corruption and a perceived lack of transparency of its business practices.

The organisation is also under fire over alleged bribes paid by Qatar in exchange for the right to host the 2022 World Cup.

Brazilian police said the ring aimed to earn up to 200 million reais ($90 million) by illegally re-selling tickets. FIFA has said it is co-operating with Brazilian authorities in the investigation.

While the ticketing investigation has gained steam over the past week, Brazil`s antitrust authority is also probing MATCH hotel packages to see whether the company illegally inflated hotel rates through some of its hospitality packages.

MATCH has denied any wrongdoing in either probe.

MATCH is the main provider of hospitality packages for the World Cup and paid USD 240 million for the exclusive rights to sell corporate hospitality at the 2010 World Cup and this one.

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