World Cup Ticket Agent Freed by Court After Charges Dismissed

A British executive arrested in Brazil on suspicion of racketeering, money laundering and ticket scalping during last year’s World Cup is free after a court ruling.

Raymond Whelan, a director at Match Services AG, soccer governing body FIFA’s hospitality and marketing partner, handed himself in a day after the July 13 final in Rio de Janeiro. Police at one point had described him as a fugitive.

A Rio court ruled yesterday there was insufficient evidence against Whelan while the case against 11 others on the same charges can continue. Prosecutors had argued that there were 900 phone calls and messages between Whelan and one of the other suspects, Mohamadou Lamine Fofana. The number of calls between the two men, who’d known each other for years, was actually 28 and lasted 17 minutes and 28 seconds in total, Whelan’s attorney Fernando Fernandes said in a statement.

“The court only recognized what was obvious: there was an error in relation to the executive, which occurred because of police haste,” Fernandes said.

Whelan has been detained in Brazil for most of the time since his arrest. He was remanded in Rio’s Bangu prison for several weeks before being released on condition he didn’t leave the state. Whelan and Fofana were granted authority in November to briefly leave the country to deal with business affairs.

The case embarrassed FIFA, which warned against illegal ticket scalpers for months before the World Cup in June. Reselling tickets is illegal in Brazil.

Fabio Barucke, the lead detective in the case, said he was “saddened by the decision.” Barucke, speaking in a phone interview, maintained police intercepted 900 phone contacts between Fofana and Whelan over a 15-day period.

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