Thursday 29 September 2016

Rio controversy: From 5-star luxury to prison

Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30

A view of Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Patrick Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, is being held. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
A view of Bangu Prison in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Patrick Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, is being held. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Pat Hickey started his week in a five-star Rio de Janeiro hotel, but last night he laid his head to rest in the infamous Bangu 10 prison complex.

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The 71-year-old swapped a €220-a-night superior suite in the Windsor Marapendi for a place in one of the city's most notorious jails.

With a rooftop pool, marble floors and panoramic views of a pristine white beach, his Olympic digs at the Windsor Marapendi were the height of luxury in Rio.

Newly opened last year, the hotel offers "delicious cuisine and superb services" and is the chosen base for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Games.

It sits on Barra da Tijuca beach, a short journey from the Olympic Park.

But since early on Friday, Hickey has resided in the Cadeia Pública José Frederico Marques prison, known as Bangu 10.

Last year, a report by public defenders condemned the "totally subhuman conditions" in the jail, with inmates so hungry they resorted to eating wet toilet paper.

After his arrest at the Windsor Marapendi on Wednesday, Hickey spent the night at a nearby hospital after complaining of feeling unwell. On Thursday, he was transferred to a police station to be questioned by detectives.

A judge denied him habeas corpus and he was transferred to the jail, which is part of the huge Bangu prison complex in Rio's west zone, early on Friday morning.

The Irishman Kevin James Mallon (36) who was the first person arrested in the ticket touting scandal, is being held in another prison in the same complex.

Bangu 10 was over capacity when public defenders visited last year, with 735 prisoners in space intended for only 532. But a prison spokesman said last night that there are currently only 396 inmates.

When the defenders arrived at the jail, they found an inmate with motor paralysis in pain lying on a hard board, as he did not have a mattress to sleep on. They later found a room with dozens of new mattresses stored, suggesting corruption.

Overcrowding Water at the jail is only turned on for a few minutes per day for washing and drinking. The larvae in the water could be seen with the naked eye. "Many prisoners told the defenders that the guards dirtied their drinking water as a kind of punishment," the defenders' report said. When food was available, it was often rotten.

"What is striking is that overcrowding causes all the other problems," said defender Roberta Fraenkel, of the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights.

A court previously ordered Hickey's preventative detention. He can appeal to be freed, or to be placed under house arrest. The latter is thought unlikely, though, as it typically requires the suspect to have a permanent residence and job in Brazil.

Irish Independent

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