Fifa fugitive has links to SA football

Comment on this story
IOL gallery Ray Whelan REUTERS Ray Whelan,left, the chief executive of a hospitality firm arrested in connection with an investigation into VIP ticket scalping at the World Cup, was released. Reuters.

 

Johannesburg - Ray Whelan, an executive at Fifa’s World Cup hospitality services firm, who is on the run from Brazilian police to avoid arrest on charges of illegally selling tickets, has strong links with South Africa.

Brazilian police launched a manhunt for Whelan, a British director of Fifa partner company MATCH Services, accusing him of fleeing the beachfront Copacabana Palace Hotel after a judge ordered him and 10 other suspects to be held in detention.

He is accused of being involved with a scalping network that has sold thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars, going back to the 2002 World Cup.

Whelan, who denies the charges, was initially arrested at the same hotel on Monday but was granted preventive release the next day. His passport was seized by the authorities, but police fear he may have acquired another one from the British consulate.

Whelan is tournament director of the Future Champions Gauteng, a six-year-old signature project of the Gauteng Department of Sports. The tournament features development teams from local clubs and includes sides from countries such as Brazil, Netherlands, Mexico, Russia, Zambia, Nigeria and Botswana.

The annual event is organised by Global Sports International, in partnership with the Gauteng provincial government, Safa Gauteng and the PSL. Whelan was in Johannesburg in March for the launch of this year’s edition of the tournament.

The Gauteng Department of Sports did not be respond to questions by Saturday night on Whelan’s arrest and what impact it would have on their programme.

There was drama in Rio de Jainero, Brazil, when police revealed that Whelan, who was due to be taken into custody following a ruling by a judge, had escaped out of the back door of his hotel to avoid arrest.

“The Englishman fled through the hotel’s back door and is considered a fugitive,” Rio police said.

“We saw him in (security) footage leaving in a hurry,” Fabio Barucke, the case’s lead investigator, told reporters, adding that Whelan had fled an hour before police arrived.

Brazilian TV showed footage of Whelan, wearing a blue shirt, walking with another man who points to him to sit on a chair near the service exit before he left the hotel, which is heavily guarded and houses top Fifa officials.

Whelan is accused of being involved with a scalping network that has sold thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars, going back to the 2002 World Cup.

Whelan, who denies the charges, was initially arrested at the same hotel on Monday but was granted preventive release the next day. His passport was seized by the authorities, but police fear he may have acquired another one from the British consulate.

Police filed charges against him and 11 others on Wednesday and submitted the case to prosecutors, who requested an arrest warrant against all except one who was co-operating with investigators.

Prosecutors said the 12 suspects face charges of organised crime, illegal ticket sales, corruption, money laundering and tax fraud. All of them are in jail, except for Whelan and the suspect who is co-operating.

Whelan’s lawyer Fernando Fernandes said he would appeal the detention order, branding it illegal, according to the G1 news website.

Brazilian media have published leaked phone calls between Whelan and one of the chief suspects in the case, French-Algerian Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, discussing hospitality packages for games including Sunday’s final.

But MATCH Services has defended Whelan, saying he was innocent and that there was nothing illegal about the conversations.

Sunday Independent



sign up
 
 

Comment Guidelines



  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.