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Briton branded a fugitive in ticket probe

ESPN staff
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Ray Whelan left his hotel shortly before police arrived to re-arrest him © AP
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Ray Whelan, who works for FIFA partner Match Hospitality, is claimed to have gone on the run after being arrested as part of an investigation into allegations of illegal ticket sales at the World Cup.

The Briton is Sir Bobby Charlton's former agent and was one of 12 people arrested but was later released without charge as his employers protested his innocence. He was reportedly forced to hand in his passport and surrender his World Cup accreditation as investigations continued.

However, Brazilian authorities have now branded Whelan a "fugitive" after it was reported he had left the Copacabana Palace hotel where he and the majority of senior FIFA executives were staying shortly before the police arrived to re-arrest him on Thursday night.

Police investigator Fabio Barucke said: "He's now considered a fugitive. We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door."

Whelan was first detained on Monday after it emerged that an international group may have earned £52 million in each of the last four World Cups. Whelan is accused of being the ringleader as he and the other 11 face charges of "criminal organisation, ticket touting, bribery, money laundering and tax evasion," according to Rio's public prosecutor.

But Match Services has released a statement denying any wrongdoing by Whelan.

It said: "Notwithstanding our belief that the action taken against Mr Whelan was illegal and baseless, Match Services and I personally remain totally committed to assist the authorities in FIFA's fight against illegal ticket sales," Jaime Byrom, executive chairman of Match, and Whelan's brother-in-law, said.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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