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Sunday 17 February 2019

Revealed: Olympics chief Pat Hickey is cleared of criminal activity

Exclusive: Inquiry fails to find money trail linking Hickey to ticket touting

Pat Hickey is home in Dublin but still faces charges in Brazil. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Pat Hickey is home in Dublin but still faces charges in Brazil. Picture: Justin Farrelly
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The judge-led inquiry into the Olympic ticketing scandal has failed to find any evidence of criminal activity or financial impropriety on the part of Pat Hickey.

A report, to be published in the coming days, is hugely critical of the former Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) boss for his governance of the organisation, the Irish Independent can reveal.

But it falls short of identifying any money trail which would suggest that Mr Hickey was involved in 'ticket touting'.

In his final report, Judge Carroll Moran repeatedly laments that his investigation was severely hampered by a lack of co-operation from key players, including Mr Hickey and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Rio Organising Committee, which oversaw the 2016 Games in Brazil, did not even respond to correspondence from the inquiry.

The judge says there may be "information significant to issues herein of which the inquiry is unaware by reason of the silence of the parties not participating".

Former OCI chief Pat Hickey spent months in Brazil before he was permitted to return to Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Former OCI chief Pat Hickey spent months in Brazil before he was permitted to return to Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Pat Hickey is taken from hospital in Rio for questioning by Brazilian police last August. Photo: SPORTSFILE

However, he recommends against the setting up of a Commission of Investigation with powers of compellability for a variety of reasons, including the potential cost to the State.

Transport Minister Shane Ross will publicly release the report next week - almost a year since he announced the establishment of the non-statutory inquiry. It was initially supposed to finalise its work within 12 weeks.

Mr Justice Moran's terms of reference asked him to establish the "policies, procedures, processes and practices" of ticket distribution by the OCI in Rio de Janeiro, as well as at the London Games in 2012 and the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.

This followed the confiscation of hundreds of Irish tickets for last year's Olympics, which Brazilian police believe were destined for sale on the black market.

Their probe led to the dramatic arrest of Mr Hickey, who was charged with ticket-touting offences that could result in a jail term of up to seven years.

The 72-year-old was allowed to return home on bail but may yet have to return to Brazil to face trial.

Mr Justice Moran brought in forensic lawyers to review the OCI's accountancy practices. The report did not find any mismanagement of funds.

However, he does criticise the existence of a sterling bank account with Lloyds in London. The account was set up in advance of the London Games in 2012 but continued to be used afterwards.

He also probed ties between Mr Hickey and the ticketing company THG, owned by British millionaire Marcus Evans.

The 226-page document includes a series of emails between the two men, which were previously made public by Brazilian police.

It suggests that there was a "concealed relationship" between Mr Hickey and THG - a claim that has been categorically refuted by Mr Hickey's solicitors.

According to the report, Mr Hickey took personal responsibility for managing the OCI's affiliation with THG, which was worth around €1.6m since 2010.

Mr Hickey has argued that THG was a key sponsor for the OCI but the judge repeatedly describes the company as "ticket agents".

THG was not permitted to resell tickets for Rio but Mr Justice Moran questions the links between the company and PRO10, which was selected to handle Ireland's allocation.

His report concludes that under Mr Hickey the OCI was more concerned with his commercial arrangements than for supporters of the Irish team.

A number of witnesses described Mr Hickey's role in the OCI as authoritarian, saying that he "ruled the roost".

He is criticised for not keeping proper records of all executive meetings of the OCI. The judge also suggests that a €60,000 honorarium paid to Mr Hickey each year between 2010 and 2016 was excessive.

Mr Hickey's lawyers have warned Mr Ross that publication of the report could prejudice his right to a fair trial in Brazil.

This has been dismissed by the Attorney General's office.

Government sources have indicated they expected Mr Hickey to seek an injunction but with the report's publication imminent, he has not lodged any High Court papers.

Irish Independent

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