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Manhunt as FIFA partner flees Rio hotel to avoid arrest

Photo: Tasso Marcelo, AFP | Ray Whelan sits at a police station in Rio de Janeiro after being arrested on Monday.

Brazilian police launched a manhunt on Thursday for an executive of a FIFA partner company handling World Cup ticket packages after he escaped from his Rio de Janeiro hotel to avoid arrest on charges of illegally selling tickets, authorities said.

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Raymond Whelan, the British CEO of Match Hospitality, a Swiss-based subsidiary company of FIFA in charge of World Cup ticket packages, allegedly fled the beachfront Copacabana Palace Hotel after a judge ordered him and 10 other suspects to be held in detention. He is accused of leading a network that illegally sold game passes.

“The Englishman fled through the hotel’s back door and is considered a fugitive,” Rio police said in a statement, just three days before the Germany-Argentina final at Rio’s Maracana Stadium.

“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 released on bail the next day. His passport was seized by the authorities.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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