The wife of Pat Hickey, the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, told detectives her husband had already returned to Ireland when they arrived at his hotel room to arrest him, police said.
Officers arrived at the Windsor Marapendi hotel in Rio de Janeiro at 6am to find his wife alone in bed, but her husband’s possessions still in the room, they said.
When asked where he was, she told them he had already returned to Ireland. Police eventually found Hickey in another, otherwise empty, room registered in the name of his son.
Hickey has been charged, along with eight others, by police with facilitating touting, which carries a prison sentence of two to four years, conspiracy, which has a sentence of between one and three, and illegal marketing, which carries a sentence of six months to one year.
Police executed a warrant this morning to detain Hickey on suspicion he was aware that tickets from the OCI had ended up with THG Sports, a British company not accredited to sell Olympic tickets.
“This morning we arrested the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland at a hotel in Barra da Tijuca [near the Olympic Park], “ said Ronaldo Oliveira, the head of specialist operations at the Civil Police.
Police have also obtained court orders for the preventative detention of three suspects, all directors of Pro 10 Sports Management, the Irish accredited seller of Olympic tickets police believe diverted the tickets to THG. They are Michael Glynn and the Irishmen Ken Murray and former footballer Eamonn Collins.
They add to the existing orders against Marcus Evans, the British owner of THG and four other directors of that company, including Irishman Kevin James Mallon, who was arrested in Rio de Janeiro on August 5 at the start of the scandal.
All of those men face the same charges relating to an alleged £2.5 million scam to sell prized tickets to Rio 2016 at up to 18 times face value. Police seized 823 high end tickets from a THG executive arrested in Rio on August 5.
“Our detectives arrived at the hotel early,” Oliveira said. “We worked with the hotel. When we arrived at the room that was registered to him, we found only his wife, who was sleeping. She did not want to help his. She lied, saying that he had already gone home to Ireland,” he said.
“But we saw that his shoes, socks and his open suitcase was still in the room. We then found him in another room registered to his son. There were hardly any personal possessions in that room.”
“He is 71 and the doctor in the hotel said he was shaken. He was taken to hospital for tests...”
“Hickey has been involved in the Olympics for more than 20 years and we believe he knew everything that went on,” Civil Police detective Aloysio Falcão added.
Police took his passport, Olympic credentials, Olympic tickets, three laptops, two mobile phones and a return air ticket for August 22.
Police say they believe Pro 10 Sports Management, the current accredited reseller of Olympic tickets in Ireland, was created to allow the diversion of Irish Olympic tickets to THG, which sold them in Brazil for up to 18 times face value, police said.
They also found some tickets in the possession of THG that were intended purely for the “Olympic family” and could not be resold at all.
“The OCI had the right to sell the tickets directly, or through a reseller,” the detective leading the probe for the Civil Police, Ricardo Barboza de Souza, said.
“But we have verified that these tickets were diverted to this other company, THG, who sought to tout them under the cover of a hospitality scheme.”
“That is the dynamic of this conspiracy. It was done in this way to achieve a very high profit margin, and to try and avoid a police investigation.
“Pro 10 could sell the tickets for an agreed price, they could not resell to THG.”
“We believe that Pro 10 was created to enable the diversion of tickets to THG, which previously held the right to sell Olympic tickets in 2012 and 2014.”
Tickets with a face value of BRL 1,400 (EUR 390 / GBP 337) were being sold for up to
USD 8,000 (EUR 7,090 / GBP 6,130), 18 times face value, he said.
Asked what proof police had against Hickey, he said: “The OCI had an important commercial relationship with THG dating back to the Olympics in 2012 and 2014.
“We are continuing to investigate.”
Detectives say they found emails on Hickey’s phone to and from Marcus Evans, the British owner of THG who police are also seeking to arrest, dating back to 2010 and James Sinton, its then CEO who was arrested for touting in Brazil in 2014.
In a series of emails within the past week, Evans forwarded links to news articles and a statement by the company Pro 10 Sports Management, which is also ensnared in the scandal, to Hickey, police said. “We believe Evans was indirectly warning Hickey to watch out,” Falcão said.
Another email, from a law firm, urged Hickey to put Sports Minister Shane Ross “back in his box” ahead of a meeting between the two on Sunday.
The email, from Barry MacCarthy of law firm MacCarthy Johnston in Dublin, passes on the advice of Siobhan Phelan who he said was a “senior counsel.”
“In general Shane Ross needs to be “put back in his box.” You should say that at the moment an Irishman has been charged by the Brazilian authorities and is fundamentally entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence.”
“You should highlight how inappropriate it is for politicians to be working to a political agenda (“for example by saying in the media that these tickets were “on the black market”) when a judicial process is currently underway.”
“The OCI is an autonomous organisation and is currently conducting its own investigation into matters… For this reason it is inappropriate and unnecessary for any external people to be appointed to its investigation.”
It added: “While the OCI will be happy to make public the findings of its own investigation into matters… it must for now be extremely careful not to release any information into the public domain any information (sic) which could potentially “taint” the judicial process currently underway in Brazil.”
The other accused in the case are Marcus Evans, 52, Irishman David Patrick Gilmour, 35, Irishman Kevin James Mallon, 36, Brit Martin Studd, 49 and Dutchman Martin van Os, 45.
The reclusive Evans, is said to be worth £765 million and owns Ipswich Town F.C. His firms employ 3,000 people in 23 countries. Police say he was a key figure in the scheme and spoke directly to Mallon, his man on the ground in Brazil.
Police say they have statements from seven Brazilians who say they bought hospitality packages including Olympic tickets from THG Sports for up to EUR 7000 / GBP 6,000 each.
They had been marketed as including a cocktail reception at the Copacabana Palace hotel, known as the finest hotel in Brazil, but instead the guests were taken to an obscure hotel miles away and offered "a few snacks,” police said.
THG does not have permission to sell Rio 2016 tickets and police were called. Mallon's translator Barbara Zancope Carnieri was also arrested. Mallon remains in custody.
Police said the tickets included for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and top athletics events including the men’s’ 100-metre final. One family bought £60,000 worth, all of which were voided after the arrests, police said.
The police had emails and contracts from customers proving this, he said.
THG Sports was an authorised reseller of tickets for London 2012 and Sochi 2014 but has no such rights for Rio 2016.
Meanwhile, in a statement released earlier today by PRO10 Sports Management the company said that in light of reports within the media of allegations made against PRO10 in its dealings as Irish ATR they wanted to again clarify that PRO10 has at all times acted properly and fully in line with ATR guidelines.
"The allegation that a portion of the OCI’s Family and Friends tickets were being made available by PRO10 for general sale is utterly untrue and completely without any foundation. PRO10 is appalled that allegations are being made against the company without any attempt to ascertain the facts.
"The Brazilian authorities seem to be dealing with these extremely serious allegations through the media and no contact has been made with PRO10."
It goes on to say that PRO10 utterly rejects any insinuation that they have been involved in selling tickets at inflated prices, ticket “touting” or “scalping”.
"We abhor such practices. We will vigorously defend our reputation and will contest fully any of these unsubstantiated and false allegations. We are already taking legal advice on how we deal with these unfounded allegations.
It concludes: "PRO10 has acted with integrity and has been dragged into an issue in relation to ticketing simply because of its status as ATR.
"All tickets sold by PRO10 as the Irish ATR for the Rio 2016 Olympics were sold fully in line with the ATR guidelines. These tickets were made available for sale through the authorised ATR process and were sold to legitimate customers of PRO10 at face value plus the allowed ATR reseller fee."
* Additional reporting by Irish Examiner digital desk
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