Irish Olympic Council chief arrested over illegal Rio ticket sales steps aside
THE head of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) last night stood down from his roles in sporting governance after being arrested for alleged illegal ticket sales at the Rio games.
Pat Hickey (71) was detained at a hotel in the Barra da Tijuca area of the city yesterday. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, and will probably stay the night there, police said.
The OCI revealed he had stood down temporarily from the top sports job he has held for 28 years.
Mr Hickey, from Dublin, has also stepped aside "temporarily" from his positions as the International Olympic Committee member in Ireland, president of the European Olympic Committees and vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees until the matter was "fully resolved".
According to Rio's civil police Mr Hickey's wife initially told officers her husband had returned to Ireland when they arrived to arrest him, before being later discovered in another room at the hotel.
The OCI denied he had attempted to avoid arrest and said he was being treated in hospital as a precaution. The organisation said Mr Hickey would “continue to cooperate and assist with all ongoing enquiries".
Mr Hickey is alleged to be involved in a scheme to sell tickets for higher than their face value on the black market in Rio and faces three potential charges: facilitating ticket touting, forming a cartel, and "ambush" marketing.
Mr Hickey's passport, Olympic credentials and air ticket were seized by police, while emails and messages on his phone form part of the police investigation.
Police say the arrest is related to that of fellow Irish man Kevin Mallon, the director of corporate and sports hospitality company THG sports. He has been in custody in Brazil since August 5 in relation to the alleged illegal ticket sales.
Mark Adams of the International Olympic Committee has said the ticketing controversy relates to 1,000 of the more than six million Olympic tickets and no charges have been brought against the Dublin man as the committee seeks to establish the facts.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: "We are aware of a case and stand ready to provide consular assistance if requested."
Last night Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross, who is in Rio, said he would returning to Dublin "as quickly as possible" .
“Given the seriousness of this matter, and in the interests of taking swift and decisive action, I will be returning to Dublin as quickly as possible," he said.
"I will immediately consult with my officials, with Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, and with the Attorney General with a view to considering the options open to the Government and decide the best course of action," he added.
Mr Ross met Mr Hickey on Sunday to discuss the allegations and following the meeting and clashed over the latter's refusal to include an independent figure on the council's inquiry into the controversy.
Irish golfer Rory McIlroy also appeared to weigh on Mr Hickey's arrest yesterday in a post on social media.
When news broke yesterday the four-time major winner tweeted: '#karma', before hastily deleting it.
McIlroy also liked a tweet from Irish journalist Redmond Shannon, which suggested the original post was directly related to the arrest of the Olympic Council chief.
In an interview last week Mr Hickey said there was "no impropriety whatsoever" from himself or anyone in the OCI and the tickets involved in the controversy were issued to Pro 10 Sport Management, the Irish Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR) for Rio.
Civil police in Rio confirmed that arrest warrants had been issued for three directors of the company, but in a statement yesterday the firm said any allegation that tickets were made available by the company for general sale was "utterly untrue and completely without any foundation".
"Pro 10 utterly rejects any insinuation that they have been involved in selling tickets at inflated prices, ticket 'touting' or 'scalping'. We abhor such practices," the company said.
Police in Rio investigating the allegations of ticket touting have also issued arrest warrants for four THG Sports executives, including Irishman David Patrick Gilmore.