'E-mails link Hickey to scam'

Patrick Hickey watching an Olympic judo event on Aug 7. The former top European official at the IOC is now in prison.
Patrick Hickey watching an Olympic judo event on Aug 7. The former top European official at the IOC is now in prison. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rio police say they have evidence arrested IOC member discussed illegal ticket sales

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazilian police said on Tuesday they had uncovered e-mails between detained International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Patrick Hickey and the British owner of a ticketing company they said masterminded a scheme selling Olympic tickets illegally.

Police told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro that they were also investigating bank documents for evidence of money laundering linked to the illegal ticketing ring.

Hickey, the former top European official at the IOC, was arrested in Brazil last week on charges that he took part in illegal ticket sales for the Rio Games, which ended on Sunday.

Among the communications police said they found between Hickey and executives of THG Sports, an international sports hospitality company, were e-mails with Marcus Evans, the British businessman whose namesake company controls THG.

In the e-mails, they said, Hickey and Evans discussed tickets that are at the heart of the investigation into the alleged scheme, which police said the ring planned to sell at inflated prices and earn as much as 10 million reais (S$4.18 million) in profit.

"They had numerous contacts," said Aloysio Falcao, one of the police investigators in charge of the case.

At a news conference, police showed printouts of some of the e-mails, including one in which Hickey consults Evans about tickets and tells him "you can use them all". Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the e-mails or reach Evans by telephone or e-mail for comment on Tuesday.

Lawyers for Hickey did not return e-mails or phone messages.

In addition to Hickey, at least three other members of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) - executive director Stephen Martin, secretary-general Dermot Henihan and treasurer Kevin Kilty - are suspected of involvement in the illegal sales, police said.

The men's passports were seized by police on Sunday and they remain in Brazil for questioning.

A Brazilian judge also ordered the seizure of the passports of stand-in OCI president Willie O'Brien, vice-president John Delaney, and an OCI personal assistant, Linda O'Reilly. But they have already left Brazil.

A court in Rio de Janeiro said earlier on Tuesday that no date has been set for a hearing for Hickey, who stood aside as head of the OCI and from all his other Olympic roles during the investigation.

Hickey, a 71-year-old Irishman, is in a maximum-security Rio prison following last week's police raid at his hotel on suspicion he took part in the illegal sales plot. Inside The Games reported that he could be held for up to three months.

Police say the scam in which they allege Hickey was involved was run through Ireland's official Games ticket reseller, Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management. PRO10, Brazilian police said, was set up as a substitute for THG, effectively rerouting tickets originally intended for the OCI, and not meant for sale, to the other company.

Although not an authorised seller of tickets for the Games, THG would then sell those it received from PRO10 through hospitality packages based around Olympic tourism, police say.

PRO10 "served to facilitate tickets for THG, so it could tout those tickets, disguised through hospitality services," said Ricardo Barbosa, another of the police inspectors.

A director of THG Sports, Kevin Mallon, was arrested this month in Brazil and is now sharing a cell with Hickey in the Bangu 10 prison.

PRO10 and THG have denied wrongdoing. Police say they seized more than 1,000 tickets from THG Sports in two separate raids in Rio. THG has said the seized tickets were being held legally on behalf of PRO10.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline ''E-mails link Hickey to scam''. Print Edition | Subscribe