Monday 20 November 2017

He vowed to clear his name - but Pat Hickey still waits to face a court

Fifty days after his arrest in a five-star hotel, Pat Hickey is stuck in Rio

Reporter Cathal McMahon with Pat Hickey in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Reporter Cathal McMahon with Pat Hickey in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Matt Sandy

Fifty days after his arrest in a dawn raid on his five-star hotel in Rio, and more than a month since prosecutors laid charges against him for his alleged part in an international ticket touting ring for the 2016 Olympics, Pat Hickey is yet to face a court.

"We are still waiting," says his lawyer Simone Kamenetz. "There is still no hearing date confirmed and the judge does not have a deadline to set one."

This week there was no sign of Mr Hickey - who temporarily stood down as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) following his arrest - at the apartment he was staying at following his release from jail. It is situated on a tree-lined street just a few steps from the fashionable Leblon Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

It seems that Hickey (71), much like the criminal case against him, is lying low for the time being.

On September 10, a judge accepted the charges filed by prosecutors against Hickey, and another Irish suspect who remains in Brazil, Kevin James Mallon.

Mr Mallon is the 36-year-old executive of the firm at the centre of the ticketing controversy, THG Sports.

Eight others, including four other Irishmen, are also charged. Prosecutors have accused the 10 of various offences, including ticket touting, forming a criminal cartel, illicit marketing, embezzlement, tax evasion and money laundering.

Clients of THG Sports were sold tickets worth €380 for up to €7,000 under the "cover" of a hospitality package, police have said. Only authorised firms can resell tickets - and facilitating ticket touting in Brazil carries up to four years in jail.

Mr Mallon was arrested with 823 tickets - most marked as originating from Irish Olympic authorities - while hosting a drinks party for clients, one of whom had paid $206,000 for hospitality packages, on August 5, the day of the opening ceremony.

That started a cascade of revelations that led to the dawn arrest of OCI president Pat Hickey in his hotel on August 17.

But the plot that led to the arrests began last year, according to prosecutors, when Rio 2016 refused to accredit THG Sports as the OCI's official ticket reseller, a role it had performed for London 2012 and Sochi 2014, saying they believed it might break ticketing rules. It came after a THG executive had been arrested in Brazil for touting in 2014.

The British owner of THG Sports, Marcus Evans, is worth £765m and also owns Ipswich Town FC. He is a personal friend of Mr Hickey, according to police.

In a doomed bid to save the deal, Mr Hickey lobbied IOC president Thomas Bach. But his pleas were unsuccessful and THG Sports was not allowed to resell tickets.

A court judgment summarising the prosecutors' case said "because of this rejection they decided to create a new organisation that would have the business name Pro 10 Sports Management. That company was nominated by the Irish Olympic Committee to be responsible for ticket sales in Ireland."

The allegation is that Pro 10 was nothing but a front to allow the funnelling of tickets to THG Sports.

After their arrests, Mr Hickey and Mr Mallon were detained at the notorious Bangu prison complex, where inmates are said to be so hungry they eat toilet paper.

The pair have since been released from jail - but ordered to report to a special Olympic court on the 20th day of every month and to remain at an address in Rio after 10pm. The court will retain their passports, and they are not permitted to leave Brazil.

The other accused are Evans (52) and three THG directors, David Patrick Gilmore (35), Martin Studd (49) and Martin van Os (45); also, three directors of Pro 10 Sports Management, Michael Glynn (47) and Irishmen Ken Murray (42) and Eamonn Collins (47). Mallon's Brazilian assistant Barbara Zancope Carnieri is also charged.

As the scandal intensified, Pro 10 Sports Management claimed that THG Sports had simply been acting as its "collection agent" for its customers in Brazil.

But police said they had documents showing THG Sports had sold 1,051 Olympic packages directly to clients.

"Prosecutors say that Evans and Hickey are the leaders of the criminal scheme," the court statement continued. "Evans, although he was not named in the corporate structure of Pro 10 Sports Management, was the one who issued the orders."

In the 50 days since his arrest, Pat Hickey has rarely broken his silence but has vowed to clear his name.

In a statement released one month ago, he said it had been a "life-changing experience" and claimed he had the support of "thousands in Ireland".

However, it is expected that Mr Hickey will be forced to stay in Brazil for many more months as his case moves through the courts.

Irish Independent

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