Latin America & Caribbean

World Cup tickets: Match Hospitality defends CEO Ray Whelan

A Fifa partner firm has defended its chief executive after his arrest by Brazilian police investigating the illegal sale of World Cup tickets.

Match Hospitality said in a statement that it expected Ray Whelan to be "exonerated".

Mr Whelan, a British national, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. He was released after questioning.

Last week, police arrested 11 people suspected of involvement in a lucrative ticket-reselling racket.

Police say an international gang earned as much as $90m (£52m) per tournament and could have operated at four World Cups.

'Assisting police'

Mr Whelan was arrested at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, which is also hosting officials from Fifa, world football's governing body.

He was taken for questioning as part of the investigation entitled Operation Jules Rimet, and was released on Tuesday.

His lawyer, Fernando Fernandes, said that his arrest was "illegal and absurd".

Mr Whelan remains a suspect in the case. His lawyers told local media that they had voluntarily surrendered his passport.

Switzerland-based Match Hospitality - part of UK sports event manager Byrom based in Cheadle, near Manchester - said on Tuesday that it was assisting the police investigation.

"Match have complete faith that the facts will establish that he [Mr Whelan] has not violated any laws," the statement issued by the firm said.

A statement from Fifa said that it "continues to fully collaborate with the local authorities and will provide any details requested to assist with this ongoing investigation".

"Fifa wants to reiterate as mentioned at various occasions its firm stance against any form of violation of the criminal law and the ticketing regulations, and is fully supporting the security authorities in our joint efforts to clamp down on any unauthorised ticket sales."

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