Monday 16 January 2017

EXCLUSIVE: ‘We’ve nothing to hide’ - Irish Olympic official says he is shocked after passports seized in tickets probe

* Chef de Mission Kevin Kilty say he was targeted because he's Irish
* Romario welcomes 'ticket mafia' inquiry

Cathal McMahon in Rio de Janeiro

Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30

An Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) executive forced to hand over his passport to police in Rio has claimed he has "nothing to hide".

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Chef de Mission for the Olympics Kevin Kilty said he was "absolutely shocked and amazed" at Sunday's raid and also alleged he was being targeted because he was Irish.

Dermot Heneghan (right) General Secretary of the OCI outside the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro where Pat Hickey was being treated. Picture Steve Humphreys
Dermot Heneghan (right) General Secretary of the OCI outside the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro where Pat Hickey was being treated. Picture Steve Humphreys

Mr Kilty, CEO Stephen Martin and General Secretary Dermot Henihan were forced to reschedule flights home and move hotels yesterday after a judge made an order on Sunday for their passports to be seized.

Their phones, computers and other items were also taken during raids on the OCI offices and accommodation at the Games.

The seizures took place just hours before the curtain came down on the Rio Olympics, which have been mired in controversy from an Irish perspective.

The arrest of Irishman Kevin Mallon on August 5 for allegedly touting tickets began a chain of events that has brought shame on Irish sport.

Kevin Mallon
Kevin Mallon

Warrants were also issued for the seizure of passports belonging to FAI chief executive and OCI vice president John Delaney, acting OCI president Willie O'Brien and personal assistant Linda O'Reilly on Sunday.

Speaking exclusively to Independent.ie yesterday afternoon, Mr Kilty denied having any knowledge of the alleged ticketing scam and said he had not spoken to former president Pat Hickey since the 71-year-old was arrested last week at the Windsor Marapendi Hotel in the city.

He revealed the raid on Sunday was "as out of the blue for us as it was for anyone else".

"I'm just absolutely shocked and amazed. This is unprecedented, it was the last thing I would ever have expected. We are here to cooperate. We will fully cooperate with the police, we have nothing to hide. We are here to do a job, we have always been here to do a job.

Willie O’Brien. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Willie O’Brien. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"All I can do is speak honestly and that's what I intend to do."

Both Mr Kilty and Mr Martin arrived in an official Rio Olympics 2016 car at their new hotel yesterday afternoon. They were met by OCI General Secretary Dermot Henihan, who fell ill shortly after police seized his passport on Sunday.

The notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys
The notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys

All three were scheduled to fly out of the country yesterday but were forced to change their plans after Sunday's raid.

Speaking shortly after arriving, Mr Kilty denied any involvement in the alleged ticketing scam at the Olympics.

Women queue with food parcels in the pouring rain for hours to visit relatives at the notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys
Women queue with food parcels in the pouring rain for hours to visit relatives at the notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys

He explained: "I have absolutely no involvement. I have nothing to do with ticketing. Nothing to do with it."

The former international clay pigeon shooter was asked why he was being targeted and he responded: "I'm Irish and I'm out here, I suppose.

Women queue with food parcels in the pouring rain for hours to visit relatives at the notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys
Women queue with food parcels in the pouring rain for hours to visit relatives at the notorious Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiros where Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon are reportedly sharing a cell. Pic Steve Humphreys

"It's the Olympic Council that is being targeted, that's all I can say."

He joked that this was his hotel for the night and he didn't know where he would be staying after his meeting with police. Asked if he was worried about the prospect of going to prison like his colleague Mr Hickey, Mr Kilty answered: "I have no idea, no idea.

"All I can say is I have to find some lawyers and present to the police tomorrow, which is what we'll do."

Former OCI president Pat Hickey leaves Rio's Hospital Samaritano Barra in a wheelchair Photo: Brendan Moran
Former OCI president Pat Hickey leaves Rio's Hospital Samaritano Barra in a wheelchair Photo: Brendan Moran

Asked if he had anything more to add, the Chef de Mission responded: "I can't really say anything more as I don't know anything."

Meanwhile, World Cup winner Romario, who played a major role in kickstarting the investigation into ticket touting, has backed the fraud probe into Pat Hickey and the Olympic Council of Ireland.

In a statement, the former Barcelona and Brazil star said he alerted the government to the "activities of the ticket mafia". Romario, who is now a Socialist senator in Brazil, said: "I told them it was my belief that they would also act during Rio 2016.

"I am satisfied with the police action that has taken place."

Mr Hickey was detained at a luxury hotel in the Barra da Tijuca area last Wednesday and taken to Samaritano Hospital with chest pain. After being discharged, he was taken to a police station for questioning in connection with the investigation.

He has been formally accused under Brazilian law of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing. His solicitor has completely denied the allegations. Rio-based lawyer Arthur Lavigne said Mr Hickey was arrested "under mere assumptions" and claimed the police probe "has no legal support".

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach said on Sunday that Mr Hickey is due to appear before a Brazilian court today. However, court services and police in Rio were unable to confirm this.

Irishman Kevin Mallon, a director of THG Sports which specialises in corporate and sports hospitality and is owned by Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans, has been in custody in Brazil since August 5 over the ticket affair.

Mr Mallon was arrested after police seized Olympic tickets in a Rio hotel, some of which were part of the Irish allocation and some for the opening and closing ceremonies and the football final. The authorised ticket reseller (ATR) contracted by the OCI is Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management. THG and PRO10 have denied any wrongdoing over ticket sales.

Mr Mallon and Mr Hickey are currently sharing a prison cell in West Rio. An Irish consulate travelled to the prison yesterday to meet Mr Hickey.

Meanwhile, it was reported last night Mr Hickey had a second Irish passport that was with his lawyers.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson was unable to confirm this for data protection reasons. She said there were a number of circumstances under which Irish people could have two passports. Some people who travel abroad a lot on business would have two passports.

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