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World Cup scalping probe widens as alleged FIFA member sought

In this June 18, 2014, photo, Chile soccer

In this June 18, 2014, photo, Chile soccer fans look for scalped tickets, with a sign written in Spanish that reads "We buy tickets for Chile/Spain", before the start of the Group B World Cup match between Spain and Chile at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: AP / Bernat Armangue

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian police expanded an investigation into World Cup ticket scalping to include the possible involvement of a soccer governing body FIFA member.

Rio's civil police suspects a FIFA employee, who wasn't identified, was providing tickets to scalpers as part of a scheme that has been in place for the past four World Cups, investigator Fabio Barucke said Thursday. The police, who are analyzing about 50,000 recorded phone calls, are asking FIFA for collaboration to identify the suspect, he said.

"While he may not be a powerful person, we have indications to say it's a person with a lot of influence to obtain tickets well sought-after by the population," Barucke told reporters about the alleged FIFA official involvement at a press conference in Rio today. "He is a big source of tickets being resold."

Rio police this week arrested 11 people in connection to a World Cup scalping ring, including an Algerian, as part of the operation to curb illegal ticket reselling. FIFA is trying to establish where the scalped tickets came from, spokeswoman Delia Fischer said Thursday, adding that the organization is waiting on further information.

"Maybe this person is not FIFA, we need to validate certain things and that's what we're going to do," Fischer said at a news conference at the Maracana stadium Thursday. "We cannot draw any conclusions; there are a lot of rumors around."

FIFA has sold almost 3 million tickets for the 64-game monthlong event, including seats for corporate sponsors such as Visa and Coca-Cola. Charging more than face value for a ticket is a crime in Brazil.

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