News Irish News

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Pat Hickey and ticketing firm had 'hidden ties', investigation into Olympic Games fiasco reveals

Inquiry investigated OCI chief's trip on private jet to Olympic HQ in Switzerland

Judge's report: Pat Hickey is refusing to co-operate with the inquiry until criminal proceedings in Brazil are concluded. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Judge's report: Pat Hickey is refusing to co-operate with the inquiry until criminal proceedings in Brazil are concluded. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

The judge appointed to investigate the fiasco at the Rio Olympic Games has concluded there was a concealed relationship between Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey and British ticketing agent Marcus Evans and his company THG.

Judge Carroll Moran conducted a judicial inquiry on behalf of the Government into events surrounding the arrest of Mr Hickey and Kevin Mallon, of the ticket agency THG, during the games last August.

Judge Moran, who is believed to have presented his report to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross last Friday, said the failure of six parties directly involved in the Olympic debacle to co-operate with his inquiry was a major handicap in producing his report.

According to sources close to the Olympic Council of Ireland, lawyers acting for some of the parties involved claim they could seriously undermine Mr Hickey's "absolute right to due process and a full and proper trial" in Brazil.

Mr Hickey stood down from his post as Olympic Council of Ireland president following his arrest in Rio on the morning of August 18, 2016. His lawyers, from the Brazilian firm Arthur Lavigne, claim Judge Moran's report could be used "at the criminal trial in Brazil".

Mr Hickey, who denies criminal charges of ticket touting, will also dispute sections of Judge Moran's report, which was compiled without his co-operation.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI); Kevin Mallon of the British ticket agency THG; THG itself; the Rio Organising Committee for Olympic Games (ROCOG); and ticket dealer Pro10 also declined to co-operate with the inquiry until after the criminal proceedings in Brazil are concluded.

According to sources, Judge Moran found that there was widespread confusion among Olympic athletes, their supporters and families about the "workings of the ticket allocations" for the games and the accreditation process for sports coaches.

But this is qualified by finding that family and supporters who travelled to Rio did not appear to have had any difficulty in acquiring tickets for events. He also conceded that accreditation for coaches and training personnel was strictly controlled by the International Olympic Committee rather than the Olympic Council of Ireland.

Tickets to many of the Olympic events were also available on the ROCOG website from July 1, 2016, but the general public and even prominent sports administrators in Ireland, including from sailing where Ireland was successful, did not seem aware of this.

Sources say Pro10, which was appointed to handle the ticket allocation following the rejection by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the company THG, controlled by wealthy businessman Marcus Evans, will be described as ineffective and chaotic.

Judge Moran also investigated a trip Mr Hickey made on board Marcus Evans's private jet to the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, for a conference on ticketing.

The exact number of tickets at various locations, both in a safe, in the possession of Pat Hickey and Kevin Mallon, are also disputed but it is known that there was a poor uptake for many events, and when Pat Hickey offered surplus tickets for some events to Marcus Evans in order to cover costs he was told by email they weren't needed as they had too many themselves.

The report is also expected to contain criticism of Pat Hickey's autocratic leadership style, inadequate corporate governance at the OCI and a failure of the executive committee to oversee the commercial and sponsorship arrangements, which were handled by Mr Hickey in his capacity as president.

These findings are disputed and one former member of the board of the OCI told the inquiry Mr Hickey "brought a hell of a lot of money into the OCI over the years, we wouldn't have it only for him". This is a reference to at least €1.6m in sponsorship which the Olympic Council of Ireland had received from THG since 2010 - by far the biggest sponsors of the organisation.

Judge Moran is expected to say that the OCI was more concerned about its financial relationship with its sponsors than its care for families and supporters of athletes.

Mr Hickey was elected president of the OCI in 1989 and despite various challenges was successfully re-elected on a number of occasions until he stood down in Rio after 26 years.

He took no payment from the OCI until 2010 when the executive committee decided to award him an honorarium of €60,000 a year.

The judge is believed to have found that this was an excessive sum to be considered an 'honorarium', which is classified as a token payment.

In 2015, Mr Hickey drew down the full five years of the honorarium, taking advice from the OCI auditors, Mazars, and the Revenue Commissioners as to how the payment should be treated, and over €100,000 in PAYE, PRSI and USC was deducted.

Lawyers acting for various parties objecting to Judge Moran's findings and disputing facts surrounding events in Rio are believed to be demanding that if the Moran Report is published, large sections of it should be "redacted" or held back because these could seriously undermine Mr Hickey and Mr Mallon's right to a fair trial in Brazil.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News