Friday 24 November 2017

OCI Sports Director Martin Burke named by Rio police as new suspect in Olympics tickets probe

The press conference this evening, inset Martin Burke
The press conference this evening, inset Martin Burke
Martin Burke

Police in Brazil have named Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) sports director Martin Burke as a new suspect in their ticket touting investigation.

A hard drive seized from the OCI’s office in Rio was his responsibility and contained a file named “THG additional tickets”, said detective Ricardo Barboza de Souza. THG Sports is the British hospitality firm at the scandal.

OCI Sports Director Martin Burke
OCI Sports Director Martin Burke

OCI president Patrick Hickey (71), and THG Sports executive Kevin James Mallon (36), already face charges that will brought by prosecutors before a court in Brazil

This evening, police said they needed to interview International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach as a witness after his name appeared several times in emails discovered during the enquiry.

The Olympics ticket scandal has focused attention on the issue of ticket-touting Photo: AFP / Getty Images
The Olympics ticket scandal has focused attention on the issue of ticket-touting Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Ronaldo Oliveira, the head of specialized operations at the Civil Police, said:  “We are interested in talking to Thomas Bach, he has already been cited several times. He could very much help clarify the work of the Civil Police to settle some doubts because he was mentioned in several emails. It is important that we can interview him, and various other people.

"Thomas Bach would be interviewed as a witness. It is important we can do that.”

Detectives confirmed that Hickey sent an SMS to Bach requesting hundreds more Rio 2016 tickets for the OCI. Hickey received 296 more tickets after the message, but police say they have not found a response by Bach to the message.

Ricardo Barboza de Souza, the detective leading the investigation said: “The seized mobile phones and tablets, and the analysis of their contents, have brought very important data to the police.

“We have the company THG that did not hold authorization to conduct the sale of tickets for Rio 2016. That company had three sources of tickets: the company Pro 10, the Olympic Council of Ireland and a company called Cartan.

“So there were two companies who did have authorisation and they illegally passed tickets to THG, so they sell the tickets at a higher price under the cover of a hospitality scheme.”

He added: “We have collected a vast amount of material, we have email exchanges between the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland and Marcus Evans [the owner of THG Sports]. They spoke very clearly about the sale of tickets and their concern about the police action.

“Police believe that Pro10 was created in order to transfer tickets to the THG company. It was to facilitate THG's access to tickets.

Kevin Mallon
Kevin Mallon

“The bond between THG and the Irish Olympic Committee is very strong. The message exchanges between the president of the committee and Marcus Evans dating to 2010. It shows a very close bond between them, beyond the commercial.”

Cartan was the authorised ticket reseller for 36 countries and territories for Rio 2016, according to its website. They included  Chile, Colombia, Macedonia, Greece, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The police presented documents during the press conference which they said demonstrated the links between THG Sports and Cartan.

The Next hotel where THG Sports executive Kevin James Mallon was arrested on August 5 with 823 tickets in his possession while entertaining ticket holders was a hospitality venue for Cartan, police said. “THG purchased 177 tickets from Cartan worth US $53,000,” said detective Aloysio Falcão, citing the documents.

"Greg Harney, the director of Cartan, sent an email to Marcus Evans [the owner of THG Sports], on August 6, the day after the arrest of Kevin Mallon.

"Another spreadsheet shows the values that were collected by THG for their tickets.  Here the fact that they were touting tickets is very clear.”

"[Another document] shows how many packages were sold: 1051 by THG. One victim paid USD$79.500, another USD$206,000.”

"And here we have an email from the director of Cartan, Greg Harney, to Patrick Hickey, saying he had closed a deal with Marcus Evans and was in contact with an employee of THG, Kevin Mallon. So Patrick Hickey knew of Kevin Mallon, he knew of the whole scheme done by Cartan.”

"When Kevin Mallon was arrested, Greg [Harney] sent an email to Patrick [Hickey] on August 7. Greg Harney and Patrick Hickey had numerous telephone contacts.”

Martin Burke joined the Olympic Council of Ireland prior to the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.

His background is in Canoe Flat-water Racing, but he has also competed in Cycle Road Racing.

He has been involved in four Olympic Games.

The detectives are also investigating the Olympic authorities of Greece, who like Ireland had requested THG be its authorised ticket reseller, and Latvia, who are said to have allowed THG to operate its official hospitality house in Rio.

Harney is said to have emailed Hickey on August 15, copying in Greece and Latvian officials, warning about the ongoing Civil Police investigation. Another email that Mallon sent to Evans confirms a deal with Cartan to provide hospitality in Rio.

Yet another document presented was the contract between Pro 10 and the OCI, signed by Hickey. "This proves that the Hickey knew of the scheme, that he was the mastermind of the entire criminal scheme, the Irish committee,” Falcão said.

Hickey and Mallon face charges of ticket touting, forming a criminal cartel, illicit marketing, embezzlement, tax evasion and money laundering, a statement from state prosecutors said this week, without specifying which individuals will face which charges.

The denouncement, signed by prosecutor Marcos Kac, was referred to a special Olympic court on Monday afternoon. It is the latest stage in Brazil's criminal process. The pair had already been indicted by police earlier in the investigation.

Mallon was first arrested on August 5 at a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, with 823 high-end tickets in his possession. Like Hickey, who was arrested on August 17 at the five-star hotel where Olympic officials were staying, he has since been released from the Bangu 10 jail while proceedings continue.

Both Mallon and Hickey have had their passports confiscated and police said they were keen that they remain in Brazil for the duration of proceedings, though they accept this will ultimately be a matter for the courts to decide.

A spokesperson for Pro10 said: "The only contract that Pro10 had was with the Olympic Council of Ireland. Any payments under that contract were made directly to the OCI."

The OCI last night said it would be making no statement on the police naming Martin Burke.

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