Monday 5 December 2016

Police seek arrest of second Irish man over alleged Olympic ticket touting in Rio

Matt Sandy

Published 15/08/2016 | 18:51

Tickets of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games seized to one of the directors of THG Sports, a company of international business events and information group Marcus Evans, Irish Kevin James Mallon (inset), are displayed during a press conference at the City Police's station in Benfica, north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tickets of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games seized to one of the directors of THG Sports, a company of international business events and information group Marcus Evans, Irish Kevin James Mallon (inset), are displayed during a press conference at the City Police's station in Benfica, north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A judge in Brazil has ordered the detention of another Irish man and British millionaire Marcus Evans over the Olympic touting scandal.

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Rio de Janeiro's Civil Police will request the help of Interpol to find Evans (52) Irishman David Patrick Gilmore (35) British man Martin Studd (49) and Dutchman Maartin van Os (45).

On August 5 police arrested another THG director, Irishman Kevin James Mallon, in Rio. The five are being investigated for an alleged €2.9m scam to sell prized tickets to Rio 2016 at up to four times face value.

The reclusive Evans is said to be worth £765m (€880m) and owns Ipswich Town FC. His firms employ 3,000 people in 23 countries.

Irishman Kevin Mallon is being held in Rio Picture: AFP
Irishman Kevin Mallon is being held in Rio Picture: AFP

Evans was a key figure in the scheme and Mallon had his mobile number saved on his phone as "Paul Bruce" (his middle names) and talked to him regularly, police said.

The detective leading the probe for Rio de Janeiro’s Civil Police, Ricardo Barboza de Souza, said: "This is a scheme THG has been operating for nearly ten years, to sell tickets illegally at astronomically high prices under the cover of a hospitality scheme."

Ronaldo Oliveira, the head of specialist operations at the Civil Police said: "They have done this all over the world but we are the only country to have detected this fraud."

Police say they believe the strategy goes back the Rugby World Cup in 2007.

Marcus Evans
Marcus Evans

On August 5, Kevin James Mallon, a director of THG’s Irish arm, was arrested at a hotel in Barra da Tijuca, near the Olympic Park.

Police say they have statements from seven Brazilians who say they bought hospitality packages including Olympic tickets from THG Sports for up to £6,000 (€6,900)each.

They had been marketed as including a cocktail reception at the Copacabana Palace hotel, known as the finest hotel in Brazil, but instead the guests were taken to an obscure hotel miles away and offered "a few snacks," detective Aloysio Falcão said.

THG does not have permission to sell Rio 2016 tickets and police were called. Mallon's translator Barbara Zancope Carnieri was also arrested. A court ordered the pair detained while police investigated.

The five men are accused of facilitating touting, which carries a prison sentence of two to four years, conspiracy, which has a sentence of between one and three, and illegal marketing, which carries a sentence of six months to one year. Police seized 823 high-end tickets from Mallon.

Police said the tickets, including for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and top athletics events including the men’s’ 100-metre final, were being sold illegally for up to £6,000 each. One family bought £60,000 worth, all of which were voided after the arrests, police said.

Many of the tickets seized by police were marked as being from the allocation given to Irish Olympic authorities. The Olympic Council of Ireland, which had given reseller rights to THG Sports for previous Games, denied any knowledge. Last week, Pro 10 Sports Management, the current official Irish reseller, said THG had been distributing tickets Pro 10 had previously sold in Ireland.

Police dismissed this. Barboza said: "All the negotiations were done through THG directly. They were the operator of these ticket sales.

"THG obtained these tickets and then sold them in our territory."

The police had emails from customers proving this, he said.

"They are the directors of THG," he added. "This was how the company made money."

THG Sports was an authorised reseller of tickets for London 2012 and Sochi 2014 but has no such rights for Rio 2016.

In a statement released this evening said they were "extremely concerned by these charges".

"We have made absolutely clear that the allegations made against our colleague, Kevin Mallon, and ourselves are entirely without foundation. Pro 10, the Irish Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR), have also made it absolutely clear that the tickets held by Kevin were on behalf of the Irish ATR and were held for collection by Pro 10 clients in Rio."

The company said having tickets on the ground for collection is standard practice for an ATR during games time.

"As has been reiterated on several occasions, including to Rocog, the Irish Olympic Committee, Irish government officials and to the Irish public and media, at no time did Kevin Mallon sell or seek to sell tickets for the Rio Olympic games.

"The tickets that he held were authorised tickets held on behalf of clients of the Authorised Ticket Reseller and he was acting as the collection point for the Authorised ticket resellers’ customers. It is our understanding that all of these tickets are sold by the ATR at face value plus the mark ups allowed under the agreements with ROCOG.

"Our Brazilian lawyers have advised us that there is no evidence to support these allegations, as indeed there is not, and we shall be vigorously defending all charges that have been brought.

"It appears that Rocog and the local authorities have an agenda to impede the legitimate activities of THG in order to support the activities of their locally approved hospitality provider."

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