Revealed: The tip-off to Rio police that toppled Pat Hickey
Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30
Police in Brazil began their investigation into Pat Hickey following a "tip-off" from soccer legend Romario four years ago.
They began to probe the alleged fraud after the World Cup winner spoke in the Brazilian parliament.
And Romario raised concerns on his personal website regarding the contract for ticket sales for Ireland for the London Olympic Games in 2012.
This week, Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) President Pat Hickey was arrested by Brazilian police. Romario wrote on social media: "And the ticket mafia gets caught! Well, four years ago I had already told the Government."
Mr Hickey, who denies any wrongdoing, is currently being held in Brazil's largest prison complex. Ricardo Barboza de Souza, head of the Civil Police Fraud Unit in Rio de Janeiro, explained that Romario, the talented striker turned national politician, played a key role in the investigation.
He said: "Romario, who is a former footballer, is now an important politician here... He tipped us off in 2012. He already denounced Pat (Hickey) and said there is something going on here.
"That was a very big factor. In the parliament he made it public. He said it in front of everyone about Pat Hickey."
Commissioner Barboza explained that their investigation is currently focusing on email contact between Mr Hickey and Marcus Evans, the owner of THG sports and Ipswich Town Football Club.
Authorities in Brazil say the OCI nominated THG last year to act as its authorised ticket reseller (ATR) for the Rio Olympics. THG was previously official reseller for the OCI at the London Games in 2012 and the Winter Olympics in Russia in 2014.
The Rio organisers rejected THG this time. Authorities claim the recently formed Pro10 effectively acted as "a bridge" to get tickets from the OCI to THG.
Two weeks ago police pounced on THG employee Kevin Mallon at a hotel in Rio.
Mr Barboza claims that Mr Mallon hosted a cocktail party for wealthy Brazilians at the Next Hotel in the city where OCI tickets with a face value of R$1,400 (€383) were being sold for up to US$8,000 (€7,070).
Mr Barboza claimed they have identified several hundred emails between Pat Hickey and Marcus Evans. "We need to check out these emails a lot more," he said.
"We can't really say or show all of these emails because there is a legal process. But the one thing we can say for sure is that there is a relationship between Marcus Evans and Pat Hickey."
Police are now planning to examine bank accounts. "That part will be more complicated because it involves international bank accounts. We are going to need cooperation from various countries and people outside Brazil."
The OCI said yesterday evening that it would be making no further statement on Pat Hickey. "Mr Hickey is receiving his own legal advice and is entitled to natural justice and due process."
The statement said it regretted that recent events in Brazil have "overshadowed the many great performances of Team Ireland at the Rio Olympic Games".
It said it "will co-operate fully with a State inquiry and it will now appoint an external independent firm to carry out a review."
Pro10 said it had "nothing to hide" and backed calls for a judge-led inquiry into the sale of tickets at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
THG, the authorised ticket reseller for the OCI at the London Olympics in 2012 and the Winter Olympics in 2014, said it "wishes to make clear that it would very much welcome such an inquiry and pledges to provide full co-operation in the strong belief that it can demonstrate that the company has acted lawfully at all times."