Monday 24 October 2016

Ticket probe a marathon and not a sprint for beleaguered OCI chiefs

Ten days after allegations of ticket touting were levelled, OCI bosses are still stuck in Brazil, writes Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Published 28/08/2016 | 02:30

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Kevin Kilty, OCI chef de mission, and Stephen Martin, OCI chief executive leave a police station in Rio
after they were questioned by officers. Pic Steve Humphreys
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Kevin Kilty, OCI chef de mission, and Stephen Martin, OCI chief executive leave a police station in Rio after they were questioned by officers. Pic Steve Humphreys

The rather grand entrance to the four-star Windsor Oceanico in Barra de Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro on Monday morning resembled the last day at school.

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Tired delegates and VIPs from around the world hugged and swapped numbers and gilt-edged business cards before tearfully getting into the official courtesy cars supplied by Nissan.

Suitcases, packed no doubt with souvenirs, gifts and other keepsakes were loaded into cavernous boots before passengers, glowing with warm Rio memories, headed to the airport. The Olympics road show was leaving town.

In the midst of these bittersweet moments and promises to "see you in Tokyo" a solitary black 'Rio 2016' car approached the front entrance.

Harassed and tired, Kevin Kilty emerged from the driver-side rear seat, followed immediately by Stephen Martin.

Still dressed in their Team Ireland tracksuits the two men should have been joining their colleagues from the global Olympic family in a hearty round of backslapping. Instead worry was etched on their faces. They were facing into an uncertain future.

Just 24 hours earlier, officers Ronaldo Oliveira, Ricardo Barboza de Sousa and their busy police squad had come knocking at their accommodation armed with search warrants.

Judge Letícia D'Aiuto de Moraes Ferreira Michelli had given the orders to seize the men's phones, computers and, most crucially, passports after they were "mentioned by Patrick Joseph Hickey in his testimony to the police".

The judge, from the newly formed Fan/Supporters and Large Events Court, had also ordered the seizure of the passports of three other OCI members - acting president William O'Brien, vice-president and FAI chief John Delaney and Pat Hickey's personal assistant, Linda O'Reilly.

Read more: Rio athletes and families invited to share ticket allocation issues for OCI independent review

The latter three had either already left Brazil or were never there in the first place.

Stripped of their personal electronic devices and travel credentials and still dressed in their Team Ireland tracksuits, the two men shuffled past security and onlookers outside the Windsor hotel on Monday morning.

Dr Martin, an MBE, two-time Olympic medallist and former captain of both the British and Irish hockey teams, was polite but declined to speak.

Mr Kilty - who spent his 50th birthday at the Rio Olympics - was dumbfounded.

The expert marksman who rarely missed a clay during his career in the sport was now struggling to understand how he himself had become a target for Rio police.

His explanation: "I'm Irish and I'm out here, I suppose."

Despite their ominous situation, Mr Kilty tried to remain upbeat, joking that he knew where he was staying that night but was unsure of his lodgings for the rest of the week.

They met the third member of the OCI-3, Dermot Henihan, inside the reception of the upmarket hotel.

The Limerick man, who has dedicated his life to rowing, should have been basking in the reflected glory of a landmark Olympic silver medal for his sport.

Instead, he was sheltering in the hotel lobby, discreetly dodging press cameras and the disdainful glances of other National Olympic Committee (NOC) executives.

He had been checked on by doctors the previous night after complaining of feeling unwell.

The OCI-3 were scheduled to meet with police at the Cidade de Polícia at 2pm the following day but only Mr Henihan showed for that appointment.

Earlier that day, the international media had been led a merry dance around the Byzantine bureaucracy of Rio de Janeiro's Tribunal de Justiça.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach claimed in earlier interviews that Mr Hickey's case was to appear before the courts on Tuesday.

As it transpired, Mr Hickey's case was buried among 800 others while the Rio Olympics was underway.

A senior manager of the judicial processing unit told the Sunday Independent on the day that Mr Hickey would have to wait his turn to be heard.

"There is a queue and he's in the queue just like anyone else. There is no fast-tracking," she said.

"Other people came in first [on August 5], he only came in on the 19th."

Across town in Police City, officers Oliveira, Barboza de Sousa and their colleague Aloysio Falcao were preparing to reveal the fruits of their latest web trawl.

This time it came in the form of two A4 sheets which the officers, who have a unique take on due process, claim show email contact between Pat Hickey and THG owner Marcus Evans dating back to 2010.

Read more: London 2012 ticket sales to be probed by inquiry into Rio scandal

Evans' ticket sales company was previously the Authorised Ticket Re-seller (ATR) for the OCI at the London Olympics in 2012 and the Winter Games in Sochi two years later.

THG's application to be the ATR for the 2016 games was rejected by the Rio authorities. Police claim that THG director and Drimnagh native Kevin Mallon was attempting to tout tickets, issued to the OCI for the Rio Olympics, when they arrested him on August 5.

Now Mr Falcao had emails which they claim prove that Mr Hickey offered tickets to Mr Evans for the 2016 Olympics' Opening and Closing ceremonies.

Mr Hickey allegedly wrote on August 3: "We have tickets left that Pro10 don't want so before we get rid of them have you any use for them."

Mr Evans responded: "I am afraid I have more than I need as well so all we can do is put back on the portal for hopeful resell."

Mr Hickey then replied: "Thank you. I can confirm to you now that I do not require any of the opening or the closing ceremony tickets that was part of our NOC allocation. You can use them all."

In an English language press conference Mr Falcao said he hoped to speak with temporary OCI president Willie O'Brien along with OCI vice-president and FAI chief executive John Delaney because they are "the big guys" in the OCI.

The attention turned to Dublin on Wednesday with the announcement that retired judge Carroll Moran had been appointed to head an inquiry into the fiasco; the OCI revealed that it had appointed a data security firm to secure, copy and seal their server; and 'big guy' Willie O'Brien beat a hasty retreat out of Dublin Airport ahead of a media scrum.

Late that night the question of where Pat Hickey's wife Sylviane had been since his arrest was also answered when lawyer Simone Kamenetz, in her first interview, revealed that the grandmother had left for France.

After a week of international and political vitriol being thrown at Mr Hickey, a rare moment of humanity was shown when Ms Kamenetz revealed: "She didn't want to go but he told her she must go home.

"She would have to wait 30 days before she can meet him in prison so he told her to go."

The lawyer, who had met Mr Hickey several times at Bangu Prison, also insisted that he had not been evasive in his interviews with police - as claimed by Commissioner Barboza de Sousa - and she insisted that all decisions about ticketing were made by the entire OCI committee.

It took less than 24 hours for two of those OCI members to contradict that claim - according to the Rio police.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr Kilty and Mr Martin appeared again, still dressed in matching Team Ireland tracksuits, but this time it was at the Cidade de Policía.

Read more: Police told Pat Hickey is 'big chief of operation' during meeting with OCI executives

"We are here to co-operate," Mr Kilty told the assembled international media before entering into the building.

"We were happy to co-operate," he said as they left the meeting four and a half hours later.

The nature of this co-operation became a little bit clearer moments later when Commissioner Oliveira, who heads up the specialised operations units with the Civil Police, told reporters the pair "collaborated and confirmed the participation of Patrick Hickey as the big chief of this operation".

Another bombshell from the Rio police was followed by the promise tht this investigation is "going to intensify".

Police say they have made contact with Interpol and the money-laundering arm of their operation has already been activated.

Despite being told they are witnesses and not suspects, the police continue to hold passports belonging to the OCI-3.

This is all bad news for Mr Hickey who remains locked up in a cell at Gericino penitentiary - known locally as Bangu - with nothing but four walls and to look at.

His solicitor in Rio has made a play to have him released from the maximum security prison and placed under house arrest.

His family in Dublin have called for him to be released altogether and returned to Ireland.

In a detailed statement, released through their solicitors, the family on Friday were said to be "gravely concerned about the effect this degrading and humiliating ordeal has had on their father and grandfather and how it continues to affect his physical and mental health".

They said he has a serious heart condition and they insisted that he is anxious to be released on bail and given the opportunity to respond to the accusations.

Mr Hickey is now entering Day 10 of his incarceration at Bangu Prison and freedom of any sort will seem as distant as the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Sunday Independent

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