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 Mr Hickey in another, otherwise empty room registered in the name of his son.
Mr 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 years, and illegal marketing, which carries a sentence of six months to one year.
Police executed a warrant this morning to detain Mr Hickey on suspicion he was aware 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 British national 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 €3m 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,” Mr 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 us. She lied, saying that he had already gone home to Ireland.
“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 before he will be released to police.
“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.
Mr Hickey was for a time yesterday morning being guarded by police at the Hospital Samaritano Barra near the Olympic Park.
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.
“Pro10 could sell the tickets for an agreed price, they could not resell to THG. We believe that Pro10 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 (€390) were being sold for up to €7,090, 18 times face value, he said.
Asked what proof police had against Mr 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 Mr 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, Mr Evans forwarded links to news articles and a statement by the company Pro10 Sports Management, which is also ensnared in the scandal, to Mr Hickey, police said.
“We believe Evans was indirectly warning Mr Hickey to watch out,” Mr Falcão said.
The detective said that another email, from a law firm, urged Mr Hickey to put Sports Minister Shane Ross “in his place” 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 Siobhán Phelan who he said was a “senior counsel”.
The other accused in the case are Mr Evans, 52, Irishman David Patrick Gilmour, 35, Irishman Kevin James Mallon, 36, British national Martin Studd, 49 and Dutchman Martin van Os, 45.
The reclusive Mr Evans, is said to be worth £765m (€884m) and owns Ipswich Town Football Club. His firms employ 3,000 people in 23 countries. Police say he was a key figure in the scheme and spoke directly to Mr 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 €7,000 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.
Mr Mallon’s translator Barbara Zancope Carnieri was also arrested. Mr 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.