Police in Brazil have released a top World Cup official who was arrested Monday in connection with an investigation into the illegal resale of tickets at the tournament.
Ray Whelan, the head of Match Services, was released Tuesday after being questioned in relation to an alleged ticket selling scheme involving the 2014 World Cup. Whelan's lawyer denied the allegations and the company issued a statement saying he did not violate any law.
A Match Services subsidiary provides hospitality services, including complimentary tickets to matches, to corporate clients at World Cup events. A dozen arrests have been made in the case. More than 100 match tickets and large sums of money have also been seized.
Police Officer Fabio Baruque said the long-running case involves the sale of tickets, some of them complimentary, which had been provided to FIFA officials, individual players and local World Cup committees.
"The crime being investigated is facilitating the distribution of tickets to touts [scalpers], which is against the law," said Baruque. "The penalty for the crime is four years in prison."
The World Cup organizing body, FIFA, has not commented on the charges, but a spokesperson told reporters it is following the matter.
"FIFA continues to fully collaborate with the local authorities and will provide any details requested to assist with this ongoing investigation," Delia Fischer said. "FIFA wants to reiterate our firm stance against any form of violation of criminal law and the ticketing regulation, and is fully supporting the security authorities in our joint efforts to clamp down on any unauthorized ticket sales."
Whelan was arrested Monday at the Copacabana Palace, a luxury hotel in Rio that is hosting senior FIFA delegates.
Police say Whelan's telephone received some 900 calls and text messages from Lamine Fofana, the alleged ringleader of the group who was staying at the same hotel.
Authorities say the group might have been active during the past four tournaments, raking in anywhere from $90 million to $200 million per World Cup.
Brazil's World Cup will end Sunday. Many fans have complained of a lack of availability of tickets and high prices charged by scalpers outside match venues. Dozens of those resellers have been arrested during the month-long tournament.