Thursday, July 3, 2014 4:38 am
by Natalia RAMOS
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian authorities investigated Wednesday whether members of the Brazilian, Argentine and Spanish football federations were involved in the illegal sale of World Cup tickets after police dismantled a scalping gang.
The brother and agent of Brazilian football star Ronaldinho, Roberto de Assis Moreira, will be questioned in the case, though he is not under investigation, said Marcos Kac, the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor in charge of the investigation.
Police arrested 11 people on Tuesday accused of selling tickets that may have been obtained through a contact at FIFA, the world football governing body, authorities said.
The tickets were the type handed out by FIFA to sponsors, football federations, players and non-governmental organizations.
“Ronaldinho’s brother told some of his friends that they could buy tickets through this system,” Kac told AFP.
“If we see that he has any relationship with this group, if we see that he collaborated in any way, then he would be involved. For now, he isn’t.”
The ticket ring was led by an Algerian suspect identified as Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, who had been under investigation for three months, he said.
Rio newspaper O Dia said it had access to a police wiretap of a conversation between Lamine and Ronaldinho’s brother taped on June 17.
In the discussion, de Assis asks Lamine if he received a call from one of his friends who wanted a ticket. Lamine suggested he sold mainly VIP tickets.
De Assis also tells Lamine he is trying to negotiate his famous brother’s possible transfer to a club in Qatar for “10 million,” without specifying the currency. Lamine offers to discuss the possible deal with officials in Qatar and Dubai.
Ronaldinho, a 2002 World Cup winner who was not called up to play in this year’s tournament, currently plays for Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.
– $1,365 per ticket –
Nine of the ticket ring’s suspects were detained in Rio, including Lamine, and two in Sao Paulo.
“The group charged a lot of money for each game,” Kac said. “It was 1,000 tickets per game, with a basic price of 1,000 euros ($1,365).”
Lamine obtained tickets that FIFA distributed to football federations, players, operators and companies, Kac said.
“There are suspicions that he had contacts with somebody at FIFA, but we are investigating,” the official said.
Contacted by AFP, FIFA said it was awaiting detailed information from local authorities to examine the seized tickets and determine their origin before taking any action.
Some of the tickets seized were handouts for the football federations of Brazil, Argentina and Spain.
“This is being investigated,” the prosecutor said.
The crackdown led to the closure of three travel agencies suspected of being involved in illegal game ticket sales.
Authorities have arrested dozens of illegal ticket sellers outside stadiums around the country since the tournament started on June 12.
AFP journalists saw illegal ticket sales near stadiums. On Tuesday, scalpers were selling tickets to the Argentina-Switzerland last-16 game for $1,500.