Brazilian police arrest Irish IOC member in ticketing probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2016 7:53 AM

By Rodrigo Viga and Karolos Grohmann

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian police arrested a member of the IOC's executive board, Ireland's Patrick Hickey, in his hotel in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday in connection with an investigation into ticket touting at the Olympics.

Police said in a statement they had discovered evidence linking the 71-year-old to an international scheme to illegally pass Olympic tickets to touts who were reselling them at well above their original price.

Hickey, who also heads the European Olympic Committee (EOC), was detained at the hotel Windsor Marapendi near the Olympic Park and was taken to hospital after his arrest.

An online video, credited to ESPN, showed Hickey being apprehended and led away in a white bathrobe.

"Let's wait and see what the allegations regarding Mr Hickey are," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "We have full confidence in the system. Everybody is innocent until proven guilty."

Adams said the allegations concerned 1,000 tickets out of a total of 6.5 million that were made available for the Rio games.

Police had not questioned any other IOC officials, Adams said, adding that the body was ready to provide any assistance in the investigation to the authorities in Brazil.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) said in a statement it was aware of media reports of Hickey's arrest and was seeking clarity on the situation before commenting. Hickey did not respond to calls for comment.

Jamil Chade, a reporter of the Estado do Sao Paolo newspaper who was at the hotel at the time of the arrest, told Reuters that police searched the hotel restaurant and gym before finding Hickey in his son's room. He said police called an ambulance to the hotel.

"It took some time for the ambulance to arrive and it went to the back door of the hotel," Chade said.

It was not immediately clear why he needed to be taken to hospital. A police spokesman was quoted by Ireland's RTE as saying it was a precautionary measure.

Hickey was a member of the IOC's coordination commission for the Rio Games, the body in charge of overseeing preparations for the first Olympics held in South America.

His arrest comes after police last week detained a director of international sports hospitality company THG Sports, Kevin Mallon, and a translator employed by the company, alleging that they could have made 10 million reais ($3 million) from buying tickets and reselling them at a higher price.

A Brazilian judge on Monday also ordered the arrest of four more THG Sports executives on accusations of fraudulent ticket sales at the Olympics. A police spokesman, however, said the four men could not be detained because they were not in Brazil.

THG has rejected the accusations against the company and Mallon, saying that more than 1,000 tickets seized by police were being held legally on behalf of authorised Irish reseller Pro 10 and criticising local Olympic organisers.

Hickey is a former judoka and is honorary life president of the Irish Judo Federation. He has been head of the OCI since 1989.

Hickey is also a senior vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees. In 2015, Hickey led the first European Games organised by the EOC in Baku, Azerbaijan.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn, Caio Saad, Karolos Grohmann, Rodrigo Viga and Conor Humphries; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Alison Williams)