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Ticket scandal creates storm on eve of quarters

RIO DE JANEIRO: An illegal ticketing scandal rocked the World Cup on Thursday as Germany and France geared up for a titanic quarterfinal showdown.
Police probing an international scalping syndicate said thousands of illegally sold tickets worth millions of dollars were believed to have originated from a FIFA individual.
The unnamed foreign national was staying at the luxury Copacabana Palace hotel, one of the top Rio hotels being used by the FIFA hierarchy, police commissioner Fabio Barucke said.
The individual is thought to have funnelled tickets to the black market with an intermediary in Match Hospitality, the official World Cup ticket agency, Barucke said. Match Hospitality also organises ticketing for other major sporting events.
Police made 11 arrests Tuesday of people accused of selling tickets that may have been obtained through a contact at world football’s governing body.
Barucke explained the police investigation, dubbed “Operation Jules Rimet” after the former French FIFA president, had been undertaken in secret without contacting FIFA.
However, following the arrests “we are now calling for FIFA’s assistance to help us identify this FIFA person, a foreigner staying in the Copacabana Palace hotel,” Barucke said.
A French-Algerian, identified as Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, had been arrested and was initially thought to be responsible for the scam, Barucke said.
“But after his arrest we realized there was someone above him from FIFA with an intermediary at Match Hospitality,” the police official said.
“We want to identify the last link in the chain, from the ticket touts at the stadiums, right through to those who are above Lamine Fofona and who passed the tickets on to him.”
As many as 1,000 tickets for each of the World Cup’s 64 matches may be involved in the scam, which is believed to have encompassed three previous editions dating back to the 2002 finals.
The touting gang could have pocketed up to $95 million per tournament, according to Brazil’s O Dia daily.

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