Friday 28 October 2016

Ross 'concerned' by Hickey treatment as inquiry begins

Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30

Sports Minister Shane Ross Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Sports Minister Shane Ross Photo: Douglas O'Connor

Sports Minister Shane Ross has expressed "concern" at the treatment of former OCI chief Pat Hickey by the Brazilian authorities.

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He indicated the Department of Foreign Affairs is closely monitoring the situation facing Mr Hickey and Dublin businessman Kevin Mallon, who are in one of South America's most notorious prisons.

Officials are also seeking clarification from Rio on what authorities meant when they told reporters they want to check information with the "Minister of Ireland".

It is understood officers were referring to Mr Ross but he said: "The Department of Foreign Affairs are looking for clarification about that.

"I interpret that to mean that they want some sort of knowledge of the investigation which we are holding."

He added that the Irish Government would "of course" be prepared to co-operate if Brazilian authorities make requests "through the normal channels".

As he announced the terms of reference for the State inquiry into the ticket controversy, Mr Ross was asked whether he was concerned by the way Mr Hickey's arrest was videoed and details of his case made widely available in Brazil.

"It's not something we're accustomed to here and it's not something we would practise here," Mr Ross said.

"I respect the Brazilian authorities but we certainly are concerned that there are Irish citizens in Brazil in this sort of situation.

"We'll leave that to the Department of Foreign Affairs but I know they have got consular assistance every day and they are getting a lot of attention."

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had written to the minister describing events in Rio as "extraordinary".

He said the "assumption of innocence seems to have been disregarded completely".

"While the Irish Government cannot interfere with how arrests are made in Brazil, it is important that concerns are expressed that the release of photographs on social media, within minutes of the arrest, is not what the Irish Government would deem appropriate," he wrote.

Mr Ross and Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan confirmed that former high court judge, Mr Justice Carroll Moran, will lead the State inquiry.

He worked as a circuit court judge in Limerick for 12 years during some of the city's most turbulent years for gang activity.

Mr O'Donovan said: "There's going to be no limit and no boundaries put on him."

A deadline of 12 weeks has been set for the inquiry's final report, however the ministers said this could be extended "if the judge comes back and says he's been led down a road he didn't expect".

The terms of reference state the judge must probe the OCI's ticketing arrangements for Rio, the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, the 2012 London Olympics and "any previous summer or winter Games into which the judge wishes to inquire".

Mr Justice Moran must establish "the policies, procedures, processes and practices" relevant to the receipt, distribution and sale of Olympic tickets.

He has also been tasked with reviewing the accreditation system in place for those attending the Olympics.

Mr Justice Moran has the option of establishing a formal commission of investigation after the 12 weeks if he sees fit.

Meanwhile, the OCI released a statement which said the organisation will make data available to Justice Moran as part of his inquiry.

It added: "An international accountancy firm will be appointed before the weekend by the OCI to conduct a review of the ticketing arrangements for the Rio Games. A data security firm (Espion) was appointed by the OCI to secure, copy and seal the OCI server and all OCI electronic data. The retrieved data will be reviewed and the findings will be given to Judge Moran to be examined."

Meanwhile, Pat Hickey's lawyer Simone Kamenetz told the Irish Independent he feels like he has been the victim of great injustice.

"Mr Hickey has done nothing wrong so he cannot understand why he is here. It doesn't make sense. He says this is Kafkian."

Ms Kamenetz confirmed that Mr Hickey had a second passport and this has been handed over to police. She also revealed that Mr Hickey's wife has returned to Ireland. "She would have to wait 30 days before she can meet him in prison so he told her to go."

Irish Independent

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