July 12, 2014
A World Cup hospitality company says its director did not flee a Brazilian hotel when police came to arrest him over alleged illegal ticket sales.
Fifa partner company Match said it disagreed with a police statement describing Ray Whelan, who is British, as a “fugitive from justice”.
An international gang is said to have earned about $90m (£52m) per tournament and may have acted at four World Cups.
Mr Whelan, who denies wrongdoing, was indicted on Thursday with 11 others.
He had been briefly arrested on Monday but was released after questioning.
Then on Thursday, police said they went to Mr Whelan’s room in Rio’s luxury Copacabana Palace hotel but he was no longer there and they were told he had left an hour earlier.
Police chief Fabio Barucke said security camera images showed him leaving the hotel through a service door.
Movements ‘not restricted’
In a statement, Match said Mr Whelan had left the hotel with his lawyer, Fernando Fernandes, before police arrived.
“The CCTV images of the internal hotel surveillance system distributed to the media show that Mr Whelan did not rush from the hotel,” it said.
“Police arrived thereafter, and finding Mr Whelan was not there, simply requested that he present himself at the 18th Precinct.”
It added: “Match must emphasise its understanding that the terms of Ray Whelan’s previous release did not restrict [his] movements, provided he stayed within Brazil. We do not believe that the term ‘fugitive’ is appropriate under the circumstances as he is presently with his lawyer.”
Match said it had not spoken to Mr Whelan or Mr Fernandes since they left the hotel and “cannot comment as to the circumstances”.
It added that lawyers for Mr Whelan had submitted an injunction to revoke the arrest order but it was denied. Lawyers will ask for the decision to be reconsidered, it added.
Match said Mr Whelan had not yet been granted “the due process of a fair trial” and the company was “absolutely confident” that any charges against him would be rebutted.
The suspected gang at the centre of the investigation is believed to have been making money by acquiring and illegally selling on VIP tickets and hospitality passes.
Hundreds of tickets and large amounts of cash have been recovered during the police operation that also gathered evidence via phone taps.