Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, secretary general Jerome Valcke, was suspended by FIFA last night, pending an investigation into allegations he was implicated in a World Cup tickets scheme.
Emails and documents seen by Press Association Sport suggest Valcke was aware that a Swiss marketing company was selling off World Cup and Confederation Cup tickets for almost five times their face value.
FIFA said in a statement: "FIFA today announced that its secretary general Jerome Valcke has been put on leave and released from his duties effective immediately (sic) until further notice. Further, FIFA has been made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee."
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The emails and documents show Valcke signed off contracts with Swiss firm JB Sports Marketing AG for category one tickets for a number of matches.
In April 2013, JB's consultant Benny Alon said in an email to Valcke's personal email address that some tickets had been sold for up to five times the face value. But it was not until months later, in December of that year, that the contract was terminated.
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Alon claims he sent an email to Valcke in April 2013 detailing how much was being made on each ticket - the biggest mark-up being 50 tickets for a second-round match in Sao Paulo with a face value of 230 US dollars being sold for 1,300 US dollars each.
Alon says in the email: "we made US$114,000 each on Germany".
It is understood Valcke strenuously denies asking for or receiving any money for the deal with JB. It is also understood that Valcke insists FIFA terminated the agreement with JB once they realised Alon was selling tickets for the 2014 World Cup above face value. There is no explanation however at the delay in any action taking place.
Alon has claimed that his company sold the tickets on the open market not the black market, with transportation to the venue or a pre-match meal being used to justify the extra cost.
That practice however clashed with FIFA's official hospitality partners MATCH and contravened Brazilian law, and Valcke told JB the contract had to be signed with MATCH instead. An email from Valcke warns that otherwise they may be committing a criminal offence.
The email to Alon in December 2013 read: "You, we, have no choice. Otherwise the deal will be canceled by Fifa or we all face as individuals criminal offense. It is not a joke. It is very serious.
"So avoid too many advice. Just do it if I may say using a slogan from one company involved. All is clear and has to be finalized now. Thanks. Jerome."
Alon also told Press Association Sport he sold tickets to the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg - the higher price there being justified by having a golf match included as part of the deal.
Valcke has been FIFA's secretary general, and outgoing president Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, since 2007. Before that he had a spell at FIFA's marketing director between 2003 and 2006, but left the organisation following a sponsorship negotiation with Visa and Mastercard that ended up in the US Courts - only to return to FIFA eight months later.
He was also a central figure in the FIFA corruption scandal that erupted in May after Press Association Sport published a leaked letter to Valcke from the South African FA instructing him to pay 10million dollars originally destined for the World Cup organsing committee be transferred from a FIFA bank account to the now-disgraced Caribbean football chief Jack Warner. Chuck Blazer, at the time deputy to Warner, has testified to the US justice department the money was a bribe to vote for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.
A statement from Valcke's US-based lawyers said he denied all the accusations.
The statement said: "Jerome Valcke unequivocally denies the fabricated and outrageous accusations by Benny Alon of alleged wrongdoing in connection with the sale of World Cup tickets.
"Mr Valcke never received or agreed to accept any money or anything else of value from Mr Alon. As has been reported, FIFA entered into an agreement with Mr Alon's company, JB Sports Marketing. That agreement and FIFA's subsequent business dealings with Mr. Alon were vetted and approved by FIFA and its legal counsel."
Britain's former FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said it was important for the organisation to take action if any wrongdoing was proved.
Boyce told Press Association Sport: "Following the latest events regarding Jerome Valcke, I have consistently stated if allegations are made they should be fully investigated and if found there has been any form of corruption or dishonesty they should be dealt with in the strongest possible manner.
"FIFA at the moment is at a cross-roads and it is more important than ever to re-establish their reputation throughout the world."
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