Football: Cameroon in ticket scandal

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THE president of the football association in Cameroon, Vincent Onana, is being investigated by judicial authorities over the alleged sale in Europe of World Cup tickets allocated for the country's fans, Cameroon football officials announced yesterday.

It was confirmed that Onana was stopped by police from travelling to France on Wednesday night for the World Cup finals starting on Wednesday. The sports minister, Joseph Owona, confirmed Onana was under investigation but did not comment on the police action on Wednesday. "A judicial investigation has been opened against Vincent Onana," the minister told state television on Thursday night.

Fans intending to travel to France to support the "Indomitable Lions" say they are unable to get tickets meant for them and the Channel Four programme Dispatches has alleged that tickets for Cameroon fans were on sale in London.

Cameroon have been drawn in group B with Austria, Chile and Italy.

In a television interview in Cameroon on Sunday, Onana denied his federation was to in any way blame for the shortage of tickets in Cameroon and accused the government of failing to finance their purchase.

Owona reacted with a statement on Monday in which he denounced Onana's argument as "a simple fabrication". "The government and the minister of sports deny any responsibility in the illegal sale of tickets and calls on the organisations concerned to explain this affair," he said.

Sources at the immigration police confirmed that Onana had been stopped from flying to France on Wednesday because of the ticket probe, although they said his passport had not been impounded. The official Cameroon delegation, including the sports minister, was scheduled to travel to France last night.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a Paris court rejected a demand to redistribute World Cup tickets that a group of 32 European MPs contended were unfairly allocated in favour of French fans. The court said it could not rule in the case. "It was thrown out on a technical grounds. The court has not actually dealt with the matter as such," said Phillip Jenkinson, attorney for the MPs, who argued that World Cup ticket sales had been in contravention of European law by favouring French buyers.

Also yesterday, tests carried out by the French government suggested that World Cup tickets, supposedly unforgeable, can be copied in less than four hours with easily obtainable technology and materials. A senior French official said that special inks, and even the holograms used on the tickets, could be bought on the open market and perfect forgeries had been produced.