Irish Republican News · August 20, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Irish Olympics boss arrested in multi-million ticket tout scheme
Irish Olympics boss arrested in multi-million ticket tout scheme

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Irish corruption is again the subject of international media attention following the arrest of the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) Pat Hickey as part of a Brazilian police investigation into an insider ticket touting scandal.

Hickey is facing three charges arising from the alleged illegal distribution of tickets for the Olympic Games via intermediary firms.

His dramatic arrest at his hotel and detention at a high-security prison has shocked the establishment in Ireland, where many sports executives consider their control over ticket distribution to be a perk of the job. Ticket resales by white-collar sports officials have never previously been a subject of interest to the Garda police.

However, the operation allegedly operated by Hickey in tandem with nine others has shocked by its scale. He is accused of plotting to sell tickets above face value as part of a scheme that authorities say had already netted about 2.7 million euro in profits.

Although he was admitted to hospital as a precaution after he informed police of a heart condition Brazilian police showed little respect for Hickey’s status as a top-ranking Irish executive. He was arrested in his dressing gown when Brazilian police called to his hotel. His passport and accreditation were removed by police, who later displayed them during a press conference.

The development comes after Irish sports Minister Shane Ross travelled to Rio and spoke to Hickey about the surfacing allegations surrounding the touting of Olympic Games tickets. Ross has since returned to Dublin.

The Minister said that he was required in Dublin “as quickly as possible” because of the “seriousness of this matter”. He said that there was “shell shock” at the arrest of Hickey, who is also the president of the European Olympic Committee.

An alleged Irish co-conspirator, Kevin James Mallon, had previously been arrested at a Rio hotel as he allegedly sold tickets to around 20 buyers. It was reported Brazilian police seized 781 tickets being sold at “extremely high prices” of up to 7,200 euro each.

Mallon was described as a director at British firm THG, which faced similar accusations of touting during the 2014 World Cup, also held in Brazil. Police say they have evidence that Hickey was part of the scheme that saw Irish Olympic tickets for the games pass through the hands of THG.

The police say they also found an email from Hickey’s lawyer in Ireland dated last Saturday telling him not to concede to a demand from Minister Ross for an independent member to sit on the OCI’s own investigation into how Mallon came into possession of OCI tickets. Mr Hickey was advised “to put Ross in his place”, they said.

An inquiry into the controversy is to be set up by the Dublin government, but it will not have the power to compel witnesses or demand documents.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross confirmed a retired judge will lead the non-statutory investigation. “It will be limited in that it will not prejudice trials or anything that is happening there [in Brazil]. It will be deliberately limited in that way but we do not think that will limit us in finding out the facts,” he said.

Public Accounts Member and Fine Gael TD, Noel Rock, has said the OCI President’s arrest is a “dark day for Irish sport”.

Mr Rock said: “It is a source of deep shame that it has come to this, and now the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland has been arrested. This is extraordinary and unprecedented, and casts a dark shadow over our Olympics”.

© 2016 Irish Republican News