Republic of Ireland news

Pat Hickey vows to clear name in Olympic tickets sales probe

Pat Hickey has stepped aside as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland
Brian Hutton, Press Association

IRELAND'S top Olympics official, arrested over a ticket sales probe, said his lawyers are working to have charges against him dropped after he was released from prison in Rio.

Pat Hickey walked out of the high-security Bangu Prison and was driven away in a waiting car on Tuesday, a day after a Brazilian judge recommended he be placed under house arrest.

He must remain in Brazil and hand over his passport.

"I have been released from the police detention system," he confirmed in a statement.

"I will now stay in Rio and my lawyers will proceed to have the charges laid against me set aside as there is no substantive proof of any wrongdoing on my part."

Mr Hickey added: "I would like to thank the prison authorities for their kindness they have shown to me.

"Due to my medical condition, I will be making no further statements."

Mr Hickey (71) was being held in the jail since August 19 after being arrested at a hotel in the Barra da Tijuca area of Rio.

Rio police said he was formally accused under Brazilian law of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

He has always denied any wrongdoing.

His family last week said he had a serious heart condition and urged the Irish government to intervene over his "degrading and humiliating" ordeal.

Mr Hickey has stepped aside from his role as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) while the investigation is ongoing.

Earlier this month the OCI said he also decided to "step aside temporarily" as an International Olympic Committee member and from all his other Olympic positions "until this matter is fully resolved".

The OCI welcomed Mr Hickey's release yesterday. Three OCI officials who were interviewed by Brazilian police, Kevin Kilty, Dermot Henihan and Stephen Martin, from Bangor, Co Down, are to fly back to Ireland soon.

Mr Hickey is also head of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) and vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

Vice-President and acting President of the EOC, Janez Kocijancic, said the decision to release Mr Hickey respects his "dignity and fundamental human rights".

"The EOC respectfully requests that these rights continue to be respected, including the principle of proportionality when under criminal investigation and Mr Hickey’s presumption of innocence," he said.

At the weekend, a sports hospitality boss also arrested in connection with the affair was also released from Bangu Prison.

Kevin Mallon, a director of THG Sports, was freed on bail, having been detained since August 5 on charges of mis-selling Olympics tickets.

He was arrested in possession of hundreds of tickets earmarked for the OCI; some were for the opening and closing ceremonies and the football final.

The authorised ticket reseller is Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management.

THG said it had legitimate customers for its tickets and Mr Mallon was acting as a collection agent for them in Rio, meeting clients.

THG and PRO10 have denied any wrongdoing over ticket sales.

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