Football Fans Bilked In Ticket Agency Scam

KIEV, Ukraine -- For the last month the World Cup has gripped independent Ukraine, whose national team debuted in Germany. But for some Ukrainian fans who wanted to cheer on their compatriots from the stadium and not the armchair, the price of national pride and sports fervor may have proven to be too high.


The office of the Kyiv-based Brama travel agency was shut down by the police in early June, about six months after it began offering combined train and bus tours to see the boys in blue and yellow take part in the prestigious soccer tournament.

According to Oleksandr Radkevych, deputy spokesman for the Kyiv City Police Department, the agency’s director was detained following a complaint by three Brama customers. The agency was accused of failing to arrange tours which had been paid for in advance and refusing to refund the tickets. The director’s name has still not been disclosed.

Following a police search of the agency’s office, which is located in a prestigious district of the city center, the director was charged with large-scale fraud and is now awaiting trial.

Police have since called on Brama customers to come forward and register complaints. However, law-enforcement officials acknowledge that the prospects of the customers getting refunds depend on the courts.

“The court will decide a mechanism for compensating the customers if he [Brama’s director] is found guilty,” Radkeyvych said.

Ukrainian TV channel Noviy Kanal reported that the number of football fans allegedly bilked by the agency could be in excess of 200, totaling around 300,000 euros in losses. Radkevych has put forward more modest figures. “At the moment we have confirmed 13 individuals and 14 firms,” he said.

Games larger than life

According to the press service of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), it received nearly 14,000 tickets from the Federation of International Football Associations, or FIFA, the game’s world ruling body, for the five games which Ukraine played in Germany. All of the tickets were either used for FFU’s own purposes or sold.

The tickets were sold either by Ukraina Football International, the FFU’s agent, or Hamaliya, the exclusive World Cup travel agency in Ukraine. Hamaliya also had agreements on selling tickets through other agencies in Ukraine.

Serhiy, a Kyiv auto dealer who declined to disclose his last name, said that almost half a year ago he and five friends paid 1,200 euros each for a combined train and bus tour to Germany to see the matches, after learning about Brama “through friends.”

However, with the start of the tournament approaching and the tickets for Ukraine’s games still not delivered, they began to sense something was wrong.

So in late May, about a week and a half before the World Cup started, Serhiy managed to get his money back, though “not without some difficulty.”

Moreover, more than three weeks after Brama’s director was detained, agency ads offering World Cup tours were still up on the Internet.

According to one such ad posted on Tourua.com, Brama offered an eight-day airline tour to Munich, including two soccer matches, for 2,095 euros.

Five-star “deluxe” accommodations ran for as high as 2,700 euros, with the price of the tickets mentioned in the advert costing from 90 to 400 euros.

Serhiy, who ended up buying tickets from another travel agency, paying more than double their nominal price, believes that Brama was also the victim of a scam.

“They were just newcomers to these kinds of tours, so they didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

According to Serhiy, when he went to get his money back from Brama, he was told by Brama employees that Hamaliya, the official distributor of World Cup tickets in Ukraine, had originally promised to sell Brama the tickets at the price prescribed by FIFA – 110 Euros. However, Sergey said, Hamaliya ended up demanding up to four times more as the soccer tournament approached.

“Brama’s problem,” said Serhiy, “was that the tour price of 1,200 euros was calculated on the basis of a price of 110 euros for the best tickets. Given that the price turned out to be much higher, after booking the train and hotels far in advance, there was no money left for the tickets themselves.”

However, Hamaliya’s website gave the prices of the World Cup tickets ranging from 35.5 to 110 euros for the first three games that Ukraine played at the group stage. An airline tour to see three soccer games through Hamaliya sells from 2,160 euros.

An owner of a large Kyiv-based travel agency who also spoke on condition of anonymity said that buying tickets from Hamaliya, his agency had to pay up to 300 euros in extra fees “for the development of Ukrainian soccer” which was charged by the Ukrayina Football International.

The UFI did not return the Post’s requests to comment.

Yet, Hamaliya president Ihor Holubakha categorically denied that his agency sold tickets at a price higher than those stated on their website, which he said already included a 10 percent commission fee imposed by FIFA.

He described as “disinformation” claims that Hamaliya sold the tickets charging hundreds of Euros more than the nominal price. Holubakha also denied the existence of any fee to support soccer.

Yet, Holubakha did confirm that Brama had an agent’s agreement with his agency, and that it did, in fact, pay Hamaliya for 40 tickets. Holubakha says that Brama ended up canceling its request later on, and asked Hamaliya to refund the tickets.

According to Yevhen Malatsay, head of the regulatory department of the State Administration of Tourism and Resorts, Brama’s license was cancelled shortly after the case against it was opened.

Officials at Brama-Consulting, a company with foreign investments, which a source within the Tourism Administration referred to as a co-founder of Brama, refused to comment on the situation. It cited the ongoing investigation by the police as the reason.

Source: Kyiv Post

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