International arrest warrants have been issued for a string of executives of the sports hospitality firm embroiled in the Irish Olympic ticket touting scandal after Brazilian police dramatically claimed the crisis stretches back a decade.
The revelation, which includes warrants to arrest a second Irishman and the multi-millionaire owner of a leading British football club, emerged last night as Sports Minister Shane Ross threatened to launch an independent government inquiry due to Olympic Council of Ireland stonewalling over the issue.
Speaking as Irishman Kevin James Mallon — the director of UK hospitality firm THG arrested last week — was refused bail by a Rio judge, Brazil’s civil police fraud unit yesterday confirmed they have issued international arrest warrants for other people over the case.
They include second Irishman David Patrick Gilmore, 35; British man and Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans, 52; Dutchman Maarten Van Os, 45; and British man Martin Studd, 49.
At a specially arranged press conference, Rio police said they want to arrest the four men as “all directors had knowledge of, and contributed to a scheme that involved the illegal selling of tickets at prices well above face value, under the camouflage of hospitality packages”.
“This is a scheme THG has been operating for nearly 10 years, to sell tickets illegally at astronomically high prices under the cover of a hospitality scheme,” Rio’s civil police’s director of specialised units Ronaldo Oliveira de Souza alleged.
“They have done this all over the world, but we are the only country to have detected this fraud,” he said, adding Interpol arrest warrants have been sought as the four individuals are not believed to be in Brazil.
Mr Oliveria de Souza said while it is up to the justice systems in the countries where the men are located to decide if they should be extradited, they face a two-year jail sentence if they arrive in Brazil.
Ricardo Barbosa, the chief of Rio’s large events police unit, said at least seven witnesses have given statements alleging they purchased Olympics hospitality packages including tickets from THG as far back as 2014.
He said none of these individuals had any interaction with Pro10 — the firm THG insists sold the tickets as it and not THG has an Olympics licence — and that they suffered significant mark-ups on ticket prices, including one family which spent €60,000 on tickets for high-profile events including Sunday night’s men’s 100 metres final.
In some cases, Mr Barbosa said buyers were promised receptions in the exclusive Copacabana Palace Hotel and lectures from an unnamed Olympic star. However, on arrival they were told to go to the Next Flat Hotel complex, with Mr Barbosa telling the police press conference: “We believe it [the original hotel] was used as camouflage to justify overcharging.”
THG last night insisted the claims are “entirely without foundation” and they will be “vigorously defending all charges”. Pro10 separately said “approximately 60%” of tickets given to Mr Mallon were “unsold inventory”.
Meanwhile, Mr Ross last night appeared set to establish an independent inquiry into the Rio ticket scandal.
He said he was left “absolutely stunned” on Sunday night after OCI president Pat Hickey refused to provide him with full information while Mr Mallon’s court case continues or to agree to the inclusion of an independent person on his three-person panel investigating how Irish tickets were obtained.
Despite last night saying he is willing to meet again with Mr Hickey, it is understood Mr Ross still believes an independent inquiry is necessary, having earlier said the move “cannot be ruled out”.
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