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British World Cup tickets official arrested over unauthorized sales

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Brazilian police arrested on Monday a director from the FIFA partner company handling World Cup ticket packages, accusing him of leading a network that illegally sold game passes.

Ray Whelan, a director at Match Hospitality, was detained at Rio de Janeiro's luxurious beachfront Copacabana Palace Hotel, days after 11 people were rounded up in a raid to dismantle the network.

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. Some 100 tickets were found in his hotel room.

The arrest was made on the eve of the tournament's first semifinal game between Brazil and Germany in Belo Horizonte. Argentina and the Netherlands will face off for the final's last spot on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Police say the international scalping syndicate sold thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars, going back to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

The scandal is the latest to hit FIFA, which is already battling allegations that members accepted bribes from a Qatari soccer 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.

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