According to his three Facebook pages, Alain Barataud is a professional football player, a recruiter and a Frenchman living ‘‘in the land of kangaroos’’, who travels the ‘‘international circuit’’ playing poker.
But a Sun-Herald investigation has found the Sydney father-of-five is also a bogus FIFA hospitality agent, deploying a sophisticated ticketing scam over the past three World Cups, including the recent Brazil tournament, which has fleeced companies and families out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He also pulled the same stunt before the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, costing a New Zealand-based events company more than $1 million in losses, eventually sending them broke.
And last week Barataud ripped off an Australian family whose son had attended the same Sydney primary school as his own children.
He convinced Sergio Silva and his nine-year-old boy Tiago to travel to Brazil and pay for World Cup final tickets that never existed, leaving them stranded on the streets of Rio last Sunday when they should have been inside the historic Macarana stadium, enjoying football’s glittering showpiece.
Mr Silva said: ‘‘I turned to my son and explained our worst fears had been realised ... that Alain would not be turning up with our tickets ... he wept. My father was with us. He cried also. All our dreams – broken.’’
Barataud’s big tournament scam began in 2006 when he hoodwinked Sydney firm Corporate Events Unlimited into believing he was a FIFA-accredited sub-agent for corporate hospitality who could obtain unlimited VIP tickets to the final stages of the tournament in Germany.
According to legal documents obtained by The Sun-Herald, the company’s owner David Martin paid Barataud $211,000 as a 50 per cent deposit for 100 tickets. When those tickets never materialised, Mr Martin had to shell out a further $400,000 to keep his commitments to clients. Enraged, he hired Sydney private detective Ken Gamble to investigate Barataud. Mr Gamble said last week: ‘‘It quickly became apparent that David was not alone.’’
Listed on ASIC records as having been born in Montaura, France, and Bonn, Germany, in 2005 Barataud was one of several player agents involved in former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke’s move to Sydney FC.
It also emerged that in 2006, he was forced to pay $67,000 in damages to Socceroo Scott Chipperfield after a NSW Industrial Relations Tribunal found he had exploited the footballer through a verbal player’s agent agreement.
When Chipperfieldmoved from Wollongong Wolves to Swiss club Basel FC in 2001, the player should have received a $10,000 fee as part of his transfer. But the court was told that after Barataud collected the cash, he wrote Chipperfield a cheque for the sum. It bounced.
A year later, Chipperfield handed Barataud $35,000 for a 20 per cent stake in the agent’s new company which was to launch an Australian professional beach football league. Not only did the league turn out to be a fantasy, Chipperfield never received any shares in the company. In his ruling, Justice Conrad Staff said Barataud’s contract with the player amounted to ‘‘oppressive exploitation’’.
In the months between his Germany World Cup scam and that legal defeat, Barataud also began posing as an agent for IMG France, offering tickets for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Using fake invoices, a fictitous company name and ABN that was cancelled three years earlier, he secured an order for 795 tickets from New Zealand-based firm Premier Events.
However, only 35 per cent of the order was fulfilled. When Premier Events contacted IMG for an explanation its senior vice-president Jonathon Cocke confirmed in writing Barataud was an impostor who had never been appointed to sell tickets either by IMG London, IMG France, Rugby World Cup Ltd or the International Rugby Board.
Fast forward to last year and during a casual chat with Mr Silva Barataud identified himself as a FIFA agent and authorised seller who could secure premium tickets to the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
In one email, Barataud reassured Mr Silva: ‘‘I am a football agent but I am an agent of FIFA hospitality as well.’’
In another, he crowed about his big name corporate clients including Macquarie Bank who, he claimed, had ordered ‘‘20 finals and semis packages’’ from him at $3100 each. Mr Silva said: ‘‘He told me ‘Your family and my family will share VIP seats, I know of a great place in Buzio where we will all stay beforehand. We’ll share this amazing experience together.’’
But when Mr Silva, his sister, his father and Tiago arrived at the luxury hotel in Buzio to meet Barataud as arranged, its owner confirmed that he had left ‘‘in a rush’’ to Rio the previous day.
‘‘I rang Barataud six times, no answer. We started to panic but I was also in denial,’’ said Mr Silva.
‘‘I couldn’t accept he would do this to a child, let alone my child, whom he knew.’’
Over the following days, Barataud provided a litany of excuses for his no-show, including that he was sick with ‘‘gastro’’ and that FIFA had ‘‘reallocated’’ the tickets.
But even in the hours leading up to the final in Rio last Sunday, Barataud kept Mr Silva’s slim hopes alive, claiming he was ‘‘stuck in a cab’’ en route to meet them. But he never arrived, the final insult being social media photos, posted by Barataud, taken inside a World Cup venue with his son.
A FIFA spokesman confirmed Barataud was neither an official agent of FIFA nor an agent or sub-agent of any associated organisations.
In a letter to Mr Silva, FIFA went further: ‘‘The invoice he sent you is not a FIFA invoice. He must have taken the logo design and used it for his own purposes.’’
Adding Barataud’s name sounded familiar the enforcement officer searched her computer and found emails ‘‘exchanged with Australian police’’ relating to a ‘‘prior investigation of Mr. Barataud in 2010’’.
Barataud confirmed yesterday he was in Brazil but had never said he was ‘‘FIFA accredited.’’
My friends and myself buy tickets through the French Federation of Football...we all missed the world cup final because the French team was not in the game...we are getting a refund.’’
NSW Police confirmed on Friday that it would investigate the allegations.
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