World Cup hospitality tickets sold to Reliance Industries were among those seized by the Brazilian police as part of their crackdown into a network that illegally sold game passes at inflated rates. Reliance Industries had bought 304 packages for 19 matches worth $1.2 million, including access to a private suite for all games in Rio, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, reported AFP.
Fifty-nine tickets seized last week following a raid in which 11 people were rounded up had the name of Reliance Industries on them, according to Match Hospitality, the firm which handles World Cup ticket packages for FIFA and one of those with a director arrested by the Brazilian police for the alleged involvement in the racket.
Reacting to the reports, a Reliance Industries spokesperson said the company had appointed a firm called Octagon to purchase hospitality packages, which include tickets and VIP services for people attending matches, on its behalf. “Octagon works with FIFA and their sponsors. We have appointed them as our agents to buy some hospitality packages. They have been handling the tickets and the packages. We at Reliance always comply with all rules and regulations and are unaware of any such incident. We are investigating the same,” a Reliance Industries spokesperson said.
Among the other companies whose tickets were seized during the raid include Jet Set Sports and Pamodzi Sports. Jet Set Sports had purchased 40 packages for two games worth $1,08,250.
The package had been allocated to an individual who resides in Australia, Match Hospitality said, without naming the person.
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Another ticket had the name Pamodzi, which had secured 350 packages for 18 games — including private suites and business seats — worth more than $1.2 million.
Brazilian police on Monday arrested Ray Whelan, a director at Match Hospitality, from Rio de Janeiro’s luxurious beachfront Copacabana Palace Hotel. He is alleged to be the man behind the international scalping syndicate which the police believe sold thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars going back to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Some 100 tickets were found in his hotel room.
Fabio Barucke, the case’s lead investigator, said Whelan faces charges of facilitating the distribution of tickets for their illegal sale and criminal conspiracy. If found guilty, he could face four years in prison.
Local media said Whelan is a 64-year-old British citizen.
The scandal is the latest to hit FIFA, which is already battling allegations that members accepted bribes from a Qatari football official to secure support for the emirate’s campaign to get the 2022 World Cup finals.
One of Match Hospitality’s shareholders is Swiss-based Infront Sports and Media, headed by Philippe Blatter, the nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.