Black market ticket scandal hits World Cup
Investigators say leader of 30-man gang that made up to €600k per game was member of Fifa
Former Brazil captain Dunga has denied any involvement with businessman Lamine Fofana, who has been arrested by police in Brazil in connection with black market ticket sales at the World Cup. Photograph: Pilar Olivares/Reuters
Several former Brazilian footballers and the father of the team’s current star Neymar will be interviewed by local police investigating a gang that made millions of euros selling black market tickets at the World Cup.
Dunga, who captained Brazil to a fourth world title in 1994, and Jairzinho, the top scorer in the victorious 1970 side, will be questioned as “witnesses” in the case, as will Neymar Sr – though none have been accused of wrongdoing.
The case broke on Tuesday with the arrest of Lamine Fofana, a 57-year-old Franco-Algerian businessman as part of ‘Operation Jules Rimet’ carried out by police in Rio de Janeiro.
According to investigators a gang of up to 30 people made over €600,000 a game at the tournament selling tickets that it received from a Fifa office in the luxurious Copacabana Palace hotel. The tickets came in boxes and envelopes from the company Match, which handles Fifa’s corporate hospitality.
One of Fofana’s associates was arrested in São Paulo and according to police there the true leader of the gang was a member of Fifa and authorities say that Fofana travelled around Rio in an official Fifa car and is heard on phone taps talking to Fifa authorities. “For now, what we can say is that someone in Fifa facilitated the gang,” said police investigator Fábio Barucke.
Asked by Brazilian reporters about the case Fifa president Sepp Blatter responded: “I know nothing”. One of the partners in Match is his nephew Phillip Blatter. In a later statement Fifa denied Fofana had Fifa accreditation at the tournament or access to a Fifa car. The organisation’s marketing director Thierry Weil said it would analyse the tickets seized by Brazilian police to “confirm their authenticity and help the authorities identify their source”.
Police investigator Barucke told the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper that at the start of the three month investigation into the gang’s activities it intercepted a phone call to Fofana offering him 50 tickets for Brazil’s group game with Cameroon in Brasília at €1,000 each. “I’m a friend of that player who is a common friend of ours,” said the still unidentified caller.
Denying any involvement with Fofana, Dunga told local reporters: “He is a football businessman who brought me to play in Chechnya. I cannot say any more because at the moment I know no more.”
Although not related to Operation Jules Rimet, the son of the second most powerful man in world football has become embroiled in the scandal.
Humberto Grondona, son of Argentina’s senior Fifa vice-president Julio Grondona, has admitted to selling on tickets to a friend contrary to Fifa’s regulations.
The tickets are among those seized by Brazilian police as part of investigations into ticket touting which has seen 11 people arrested. Pictures of one of the tickets seized with Humberto Grondona’s name on it has been circulated.
The disclosure that Grondona’s son has been involved is a huge embarrassment to Fifa – he has a post as a technical adviser to the world governing body. His father has been a Fifa executive committee member since 1988 and is also chairman of Fifa’s powerful finance committee.
Grondona junior told Argentinian TV station TYC he spent more than $9,000 (€6,600) on 24 category one tickets for group games and knock-out matches including a semi-final and final and had sold some on to a friend.
He said: “I bought all of them for more than 9,000 dollars, I have a friend that is someone very well known in Argentina who wanted to come and I sold to him some of these tickets.
“He on his part gave the tickets to another friend, what they then did with the tickets I have no idea.”
Asked for the identity of the person he sold the tickets to, Grondona junior added: “I cannot tell you. But do you think I would dirty my hands for 220 dollars? The truth is that I have no idea where these tickets went to.”
Fifa emailed all employees and everyone on the World Cup delegation list before the tournament warning them not to sell on tickets, which have an electronic chip which makes them traceable back to the person who purchased the.
Delia Fischer, Fifa’s head of media, would not comment on the investigation but said if anyone was found to have breached regulations they would face disciplinary action.
She told a news conference in Rio: “We cannot comment on ongoing investigations but anyone who has violated the regulations will be sanctioned.
“I cannot go into specific cases but we need to see the source of the original tickets and how the tickets ended up somewhere.
“Even where you have specific names you cannot always jump to conclusions.”
Fischer confirmed that anyone found having breached the regulations can have their tickets for any future games removed.
She added: “If someone is violating something then tickets can be cancelled accordingly but we need to see who is involved, which tickets they are and then we can take necessary action.”