KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Patrick Hickey, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, has reportedly been arrested in Rio de Janeiro in the Irish tickets scandal.
Hickey, 71, is head of the Olympic Council of Ireland, president of the European Olympics Committees and a member of the executive board of the IOC.
The tickets issue has been reminiscent of events towards the end of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when a dozen men were arrested on similar charges concerning the terms of resale of tickets.
Reports in Dublin quoted government sources as suggesting that a parliamentary inquiry might be the most effective way to try to investigate what has, or has not, happened.
An OCI statement said only: “The OCI is aware of the media stories regarding Pat Hickey and we are seeking total clarity on the situation before we comment further.” Later Hickey was said to have ‘stood down’ from his various roles pending a resolution.
Hickey is suspected of illegally passing on tickets for the Games to be sold on at extortionate prices. He was taken ill on being approached, while in his room in his bath robe, at the IOC’s Windsor Marapendi hotel in Barra de Tijuca and moved to hospital for treatment.
A police claim that he had tried to escape, sliding his Olympic pass under the door and fleeing to an adjacent hotel room in which his son Sephen Hickey had been staying, was denied by the OCI.
Stephen Hickey had worked as a temporary manager for THG at the London Olympics in 2012 when the company was Ireland’s authorised ticket reseller. This contract for Rio was issued to a company named as Pro10.
A spokesman for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “We are aware of an Irish citizen having been arrested in Rio. The department, through its consulate in Rio, is following up and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
A video of police knocking on Hickey’s hotel door and entering the room has been published on http://espn.uol.com.br/.
Hickey’s arrest is understood to be related to that of fellow Irishman Kevin James Mallon and 40 other people in raids on the day of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Also detained but then released was a woman identfied as Barbara Carnieri and described as a company translator.
Mallon is the director of THG Sports, a London-based sports hospitality company. On being detained he was found to be in possession of more than 800 top-class tickets for the Games including some for the Opening Ceremony.
Brazilian police have said an arrest warrant has been issued for THG owner Marcus Evans in relation to ticket touting. Evans is also the owner and chairman of Ipswich Town Football Club.
It is illegal for tickets allotted to a National Olympic Committee to be redistributed and sold to fans without informing the International Olympic Committee. Pro10 had stated initially, when the tickets were seized, that THG’s Mallone was acting on their behalf.
Brazilian police have since detained four THG directors, and have confirmed that warrants have been issued for the arrest of three directors of Pro 10.
The issue has both sporting and political ramifications back in Dublin.
Hickey had already disagreed with Sports Minister Shane Ross over the make-up of an OCI inquiry panel into both the tickets issue and the Republic of Ireland’s general Games performance.
The membership of the European Olympics Committee comprises all the continent’s national Olympics committees. Last year it staged its first, long-projected European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. Russia is scheduled to host the next Games in 2019.
Hickey was one of the members of the IOC executive board who opposed the concept of a blanket ban for Russia in the wake of the doping cover-up reports commissioned and published by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
All those involved have denied any wrongdoing.