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Police suspect FIFA member in World Cup ticket scandal worth millions

Brazilian police appeal to FIFA as they try to track down the source of the black market tickets.

"World Cup of Hypocrites": protest graffiti seen near Corinthians' ground in São Paulo.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

AN ILLEGAL TICKETING scandal has tarnished the World Cup as Germany and France gear up for their titanic quarter-final showdown later today.

Police probing an international scalping syndicate said thousands of illegally sold tickets worth millions of dollars were believed to have originated from a FIFA individual.

The unnamed foreign national was staying at the luxury Copacabana Palace hotel, an official FIFA hotel during the World Cup, police commissioner Fabio Barucke said.

The individual is thought to have funnelled tickets to the black market with an intermediary in Match Hospitality, the official World Cup ticket agency, Barucke said. Match Hospitality also organises ticketing for other major sporting events.

Police made 11 arrests on Tuesday of people accused of selling tickets that may have been obtained through a contact at world football’s governing body.

Barucke explained the police investigation, dubbed “Operation Jules Rimet” after the former French FIFA president, had been undertaken in secret without contacting FIFA.

However, following the arrests “we are now calling for FIFA’s assistance to help us identify this FIFA person, a foreigner staying in the Copacabana Palace hotel,” Barucke said.

A French-Algerian suspect, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, was initially thought to be responsible for the scam, Barucke said.

“But after his arrest we realized there was someone above him from FIFA with an intermediary at Match Hospitality,” the police official said.

“We want to identify the last link in the chain, from the ticket touts at the stadiums, right through to those who are above Lamine Fofona and who passed the tickets on to him.”

As many as 1,000 tickets for each of the World Cup’s 64 matches may be involved in the scam, which is believe to have encompassed three previous editions dating back to the 2002 finals.

The touting gang could have pocketed up to $95 million per tournament, according to Brazil’s O Dia daily.

If a FIFA official is shown to have been heavily involved in the scandal it will leave another stain on the governing body’s reputation following extensive corruption allegations surrounding the vote for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

FIFA responded late last night with marketing director Thierry Weil saying the body was ready to help authorities with their enquiries.

“With regard to ‘Operation Jules Rimet’, FIFA is fully supporting the local authorities in their investigations into ticket scalping and any illegal sale of FIFA World Cup tickets,” said Weil.

“FIFA and the local authorities will ensure that any violations will be sanctioned accordingly,” said Weil.

- © AFP, 2014

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