Police and public affairs sources said that 11 individuals had been arrested on suspicion of ticketing offences, conspiracy to defraud and money-laundering.
Delia Fischer, spokesperson for the world federation, told a media briefing: “FIFA has been actively assisting the local authorities and their ticketing enforcement arm with their work since 2012 when the [World Cup] ticketing [sales] operation was launched and is very happy that the Brazilian police is taking action over illegal sales.”
Local media reports alleged that members of the Argentinian, Brazilian and Spanish delegations were suspected of involvement.
All major events in sport and entertainment are assailed by ticket touting and fraud attacks. In the past senior members of the FIFA executive committee, notably Ismail Bhamjee (Botswana) and Jack Warner (Trinidad, CONCACAF) have been subject to disciplinary action over illicit ticket activities.
Hence, and in particular after the last stormy few years, FIFA is extremely sensitive to such allegations against highly-placed officials of the ‘football family.’
This week’s raids by the civil police and Rio Ministry of Public Affairs led to the arrest of 11 individuals. They included a Sao Paulo lawyer, a member of the military police and a man identified as Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, described as a 57-year-old French-Algerian. He was said to live in Dubai, to have an office in Switzerland.
Phone taps had traced a significant number of calls from Fofana both to Zurich (where FIFA is headquartered) and to the Brazilian World Cup squad’s training camp at Teresopolis. Some of tapped calls were to well-known agents and former players
A Ministry spokesman said: “We gave evidence that some national team delegations passed on tickets. We have a deposition from one person saying he worked for these three selecoes (ie Argentina, Brazil and Spain).”
This particular gang had been operating, it is thought, ever since the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.
Tickets from various categories were being quotedresold at prices significantly above face value at €1,000 plus. The ring was quoting a lowest price of €12,000 for a ticket for the final.
Police estimated the potential profit on planned ticket dealing at £70m.
Each delegation receives 700 ticket for its own matches while the Brazilian confederation was contracted to receive a total of 30,000 tickets for the tournament as host.
Ticket purchasers who are unable to use their allocation can sell them directly back in via the FIFA ticketing website. These are then put back on the market. Generally these have added up to a few thousand each day which have been snapped up at high speed.
FIFA stopped announcing daily numbers of re-sale tickets because they had generally gone before formal announcement of availability.
The world federation and the Brazilian local organising committee were not forewarned by the police in advance about the likelihood of raids and arrests.
Police said that a total of 111 individuals have been arrested in Rio on charges of ticket touting. Some 17 – including the latest 11 – were being detained on suspicion of serious criminal activity.