The head of Ireland’s Olympic Committee – who is also the Olympics’ most senior European official – Pat Hickey is in hospital in Rio following his arrest by Brazilian police in connection ticket touting.
Ironically, the Games have been beset by low attendances with many local people and businesses boycotting them.
Mr Hickey, 71, who has been on Ireland’s Olympics committee for many years, is being investigated for illegally passing on tickets for the Games to be sold on at extortionate prices. He is facing three official charges, which include ticket touting, formation of a cartel and ambush or illicit marketing. If convicted he could face up to seven years in prison.
Mr Hickey was elected head of the European Olympic Committees in 2006 and has been in charge of the Olympic Council of Ireland since 1989. He has also been on the International Olympic Committee’s executive board since 2012.
City police acted to “carry out an arrest warrant and search warrant against Patrick Joseph Hickey, from Ireland, a member of the International Olympic Committee, Rio police said in a statement.
“He was arrested,” said a spokesman.
Police in Rio also said that he tried to flee his luxury hotel suite when they arrived and that Mr. Hickey’s wife had first tried to tell them he had left the Games and returned to Europe. They said he slid his Olympic pass under the door when police knocked and he fled into the adjacent hotel room, which had until recently been occupied by his son, Stephen.
The pass was seized by police and later shown to reporters at a press conference.
Mr Hickey’s arrest follows that of another Irishman Kevin James Mallon, director of THG Sports, a London-based corporate and sports hospitality company, on the day of the Olympic opening ceremony on 5 August. He had been in possession of nearly a thousand VIP tickets for the Games which, police believe, he had been offering for £6,000 each.
THG Sports is owned by Marcus Evans Group, which also owns Ipswich Town Football Club.
Marcus Evans was one of four names on a list of arrest warrants issued by a Brazilian judge on Monday in connection with the alleged reselling of Rio 2016 tickets. Evidence was recovered from Hickey’s phone linking him with Evans.
Mr. Hickey’s son, Stephen, formerly worked at THG Sports which was licensed to resell London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Olympic tickets.
Last week Pat Hickey told RTE he had never had any dealings or association with THG.
THG Sports said Mr Mallon had not sold, or sought to sell,the tickets but had been holding them for collection by clients of the Irish authorised ticket reseller, Pro 10 Management, an Irish sports management company based in Lucan, County Dublin, and which was appointed by the OCI as its Authorised Ticket Re-seller (ATR) in Ireland.
Pro 10 said the tickets Mallon had in his possession were held on their behalf for collection by Irish and other European customers who had purchased them at face value, plus a commission.
It complained it had suffered “significant commercial loss” as a result of the seizure of the tickets.
Rio police said warrants have now been issued for Pro10’s three directors Ken Murray (41), Michael Glynn (47) and Eamonn Collins (46).
The OCI, which before today said there is “absolutely no suggestion of misconduct or impropriety” by the OCI or any of its staff, declared it was aware of the arrest of Mr. Hickey but was awaiting clarity and was still in the process of establishing the facts.
As head of the European body Hickey was instrumental in setting up the European Games, first held last year, in Baku in Azerbaijan.