Sports Minister Shane Ross and his junior minister Patrick O’Donovan confirmed the situation at the launch of the vital investigation’s terms of reference, which will allow the inquiry to stretch back to at least the London 2012 Olympics.
Speaking as two Olympic Council of Ireland officials prepare to speak with Rio police today, as pressure continued to mount on FAI chief John Delaney to break his silence on the issue and as THG refused to comment on emails between its owner and OCI president Pat Hickey, the ministers said they want the inquiry to conclude within three months.
However, in a move that will raise fresh concerns over the scale of work involved, they admitted “there is no limit of time or boundaries” and that an extension will be “considered” if it is sought by the overseeing retired High Court judge Mr Justice Carroll Moran.
“The intention is a 12-week target, but if the judge comes back and says he’s being led down a road that he didn’t expect we’d have to consider it [an extension],” Mr Ross said when asked, before Mr O’Donovan added: “If this goes beyond the 12-week period we’re in a position to say to the judge, there is no limit of time or boundaries.”
Last night, the OCI welcomed the appointment of Mr Justice Moran and said it would hand over the findings of a review of its electronic data to the judge.
Under the terms of the inquiry, investigators will be asked to examine the “receipt, distribution, and sale of tickets” for Rio 2016.
In addition, the inquiry will also be specifically tasked with examining the “policies, procedures and procurement, including any resale of any tickets as part of hospitality packages” for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the London 2012 Olympics and “any previous summer or winter games”.
The inquiry will be able to examine corporate governance at the OCI and how taxpayers’ funding for the body has been spent, in addition to the relationship between the OCI, Pro10, and THG, which held the ticket resale contract for London 2012.
However, while an allowance has been made for Mr Moran to recommend a full-blown State inquiry with powers of compellibility should he feel it necessary, calls by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin for a specific clause to be included allowing this move at any stage of the probe have been rejected.
Mr Ross dismissed criticism from Labour leader Brendan Howlin that the non-statutory inquiry is the wrong course of action in light of the Brazilian investigation by saying it remains “appropriate”.
The terms of reference launch came as OCI officials Kevin Kilty and Stephen Martin prepare to speak with Brazilian police today after being named as suspects in the investigation.
Both have been unable to leave Brazil after their passports and a significant amount of unsold OCI tickets were seized on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Brazilian police also published detailed emails between Mr Hickey — who is unlikely to appear in court until next week — and THG owner Marcus Evans on the eve of the Olympics seemingly suggesting an international ticket touting conspiracy exists.
However, despite the revelation, THG yesterday refused to comment.