After suspicions of “irregularities” in the sale of Eurovision tickets, the Leean ticket agency said Tuesday that all tickets for the song contest that were sold illegally would be canceled.
An initial investigation found that dozens of tickets in prime spots were sold to senior media and sports executives instead of the public.
The Kan public broadcaster on Sunday said it had instructed Leean to halt all sales until further notice after the broadcaster’s oversight committee raised suspicions that highly in-demand tickets purchased last week were being resold at a profit.
The CEO of Kan, Eldad Koblentz, wrote to the owners and directors of Leean and instructed them to return any illegally sold tickets to the pool for resale to the public.
“Following the meeting that we held yesterday and the material you sent, you are required at the first stage, as you proposed, to immediately cancel all transactions for the sale of tickets made manually or by telephone, either to the final event or to other Eurovision events, and to return all tickets sold in this manner to the quota of unsold tickets,” the letter read, according to Channel 12 news.
The announcement of the freeze on sales came shortly after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed police to investigate the suspicions raised by Kan officials.
Kan said its oversight committee “identified an attempt by various parties to intervene in the sales process, with hundreds of tickets — worth hundreds of thousands of shekels — in the arena’s best seats sold to top sports and media executives and not to the public, which is firmly against the guidelines set by the broadcaster’s board of directors.”
Reports in Hebrew-language media said some of those tickets were being resold illegally at two and a half times their original price — up to NIS 5,000 ($1,400).
Kan said all sales would be frozen until the suspicions were investigated, and that tickets that were found to have been sold illegally would be made available to the public.
Erdan said he instructed police to look into possible Eurovision ticket scalping using “all resources available to them.”
“Exploitation of the public by scalping tickets is disgusting and illegal,” he said in a statement. “It’s inconceivable that a historic and joyous event will be used by criminals to defame Israel.”
The first batch of tickets to the 2019 Eurovision sold out in 10 minutes when they went on sale Thursday night. Some 2,000 fans bagged tickets, with tens of thousands left disappointed.
Tickets range in price from NIS 350, close to $100, for rehearsals, to NIS 2,000 ($550) for VIP treatment at the finals.
The high prices, likely the most expensive ever for Eurovision, were heavily criticized in Israel and abroad.
Around 4,000 tickets were designated for the general public and another 3,000 were reserved for the European Broadcasting Union that runs the event.
The next batch of tickets was scheduled to go on sale in April.
The 2019 Eurovision will be held at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds from May 14 to 18. There will be nine shows in total — two semifinals and a final, and two rehearsals for each.
Israel will be represented by singer Kobi Marimi, after the 27-year-old won the Rising Star reality singing competition in February.
Pro-Palestinian activists in Europe have called for a boycott of the Eurovision in Tel Aviv, and anti-Israel protesters briefly interrupted a song contest qualifying round in France last month.