Brazilian police have arrested the top European Olympic official in Rio earlier today because of his involvement with illegal ticket sales. The official was identified as Patrick Hickey, 71, a native of Ireland who was suspected of being involved in a scheme to sell tickets for the Olympic games at a rate much higher than their face value. Hickey was taken to a hospital after his arrest as a precaution and will most likely be spending the night there, according to police.
Hickey’s arrest is part of a much larger investigation on tickets that were allotted to Ireland and were being sold illegally at the Rio Games. According to a report by Irish TV and radio broadcasting outlet RTE, Hickey currently faces three charges and, if convicted, could end up spending up to seven years behind bars.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said that the allegations were being centered on 1,000 tickets belonging to the Irish National Olympic Committee. Adams further added that the International Olympic Committee was not representing Hickey in his case. According to Adams, the issue was “something for the Irish National Olympic Committee…and for them to sort out.”
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), the organization that has been headed by Hickey since 1989, stated that they were completely aware of the reports regarding Hickey’s arrest.
“We are seeking total clarity before we comment further,” the council said in their statement.
According to reports, Hickey was not in his hotel room when police officers arrived with a warrant for his arrest on Wednesday morning. His wife told police that he had gone back to Ireland, but he would later be found elsewhere in the hotel. While the officers said that they had enough reason to believe that the suspect was trying to escape, a video posted on ESPN’s Brazilian Sports webpage shows Hickey answering the door to officers while naked.
Hickey is a former Irish judo champion and was elected as Ireland’s representative in the IOC way back in 1995 and to its executive board in 2012. In 2013, he would run unopposed to serve as the European Olympic Committees’ president for the next four years. Hickey’s arrest, according to police, is related to that of Kevin James Mallon, a fellow Irishman and director of THG Sports, who was arrested on the day of the Summer Games’ opening ceremony.
The profits of this alleged scheme are estimated to be worth 10 million reals ($3.1 million).
The IOC has said that it will fully cooperate with the Brazilian authorities in its ongoing investigation.
Shane Ross, a sports minister who is currently in Rio and had met with Hickey during the weekend, expressed his shock over the official’s arrest with a simple tweet.
Shell shock here in Rio
— Shane Ross (@Shane_RossTD) August 17, 2016
The Brazilian police have also issued three more arrest warrants for on Wednesday morning for directors of Pro10 management, a sports management company based in Lucan County Dublin, and was appointed by the OCI as its ATR or Authorized Ticket Retailer in Ireland. The company issued a statement saying that they were appalled by the allegations being made against them and that they have always “acted properly and fully in line with ATR guidelines.”
More than 1,000 tickets that were being sold for much higher prices have been seized by agents and allocated to the OCI. The company that is suspected to be the brains behind this scheme is THG Sports, a British hospitality provider. Following the arrests of Hickey and Mallon, the OCI said that it would investigate why some of the tickets had somehow landed in their possession.
[Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images]