"Police in Rio de Janeiro on Monday arrested the chief executive of a Swiss hospitality and ticketing company in connection with an ongoing investigation over VIP ticket scalping at the World Cup.
"Ray Whelan, of Switzerland-based Match Services, was arrested at the city's beachfront Copacabana Palace hotel as a result of a probe into the illegal resale of tickets for the ongoing tournament, police said.
"Whelan's name, they added, came up repeatedly in telephone conversations and other documentation that last week led to the arrest of 11 people. At the time, Rio police said that the probe suggested a FIFA official had helped the detained ring of ticket scalpers.
"According to Match Services' web site, the agency 'is the professional services company appointed by FIFA to provide ticketing, accommodation and event information technology' to FIFA, soccer's governing body.
"A spokesman for Match could not immediately be contacted for comment on Whelan's arrest.
"Earlier on Wednesday, Match said it had blocked the corporate hospitality packages of three companies and canceled those of another as a result of the probe.
"The company said it canceled all packages purchased by Atlanta Sportif after their CEO, Lamine Fofana, was among the 11 arrested last week.
"Packages held by Reliance Industries Ltd., Jet Set Sports and Pamodzi were blocked after tickets with their names were found in Fofana's possession, Match Hospitality said.
"'(They) are to cooperate with Match Hospitality by helping the authorities with their enquiries regarding the hospitality packages with their names on them found in Mr. Fofana's possession,' said Match.
"'Failing that, Match Hospitality will cancel their tickets for the semi-final and the final.'
"Match added that its terms expressly prohibited the re-sale of tickets.
"'Match Hospitality will continue to investigate and cooperate with all tickets seized by police, tracing their path to any illegal resale, and remains committed to preventing the illegal resale of 2014 FIFA World Cup tickets,' it said.
"Rio de Janeiro police said last week that Fofana, a French-Algerian national, had free access to restricted FIFA areas and received up to one million reais ($450,000) per game by re-selling tickets.
"The suspects face charges of money-laundering, illegal ticket touting and conspiracy."
AFP's Claire de Oleveira Neto says Whelan faces a four-year prison sentence if found guilty:
"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 semi-final game between Brazil and Germany in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday (AEST). Argentina and the Netherlands will face off for the final's last spot on Thursday (AEST) 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 football 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."