OCI chief Pat Hickey remains in hospital following arrest
Minister for Sport Shane Ross returns from Rio to conduct independent investigation
Pat Hickey has temporarily stepped aside as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and all other Olympic roles following his arrest in Brazil, accused of involvement in ticket touting.
President of the OCI since 1989 and a member of the powerful executive committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Mr Hickey’s decision to stand down was announced by the OCI at the end of an extraordinary day in Rio.
Last night, he remained under medical observation in a Rio hospital following his arrest by the police unit investigating alleged ticket touting at the Olympic Games in the city. An Irish man and a translator were arrested earlier this month in Rio and about 800 tickets seized, some of which came from the OCI’s allocation.
Minister for Sport Shane Ross is to consider appointing a senior counsel to conduct an independent investigation into the tickets controversy. He is due to arrive in Dublin on Thursday after flying home from Rio de Janeiro six days ahead of schedule to decide how to proceed. He is to meet Attorney General Máire Whelan and Government officials on Friday to discuss an inquiry.
Ill healthThe OCI said “in light of this morning’s developments and his ill health”, Mr Hickey had decided to step aside temporarily as president of the OCI and all other Olympic functions “until this matter is fully resolved. Mr Hickey will of course continue to co-operate and assist with all ongoing enquiries.”
Brazilian police said they believed Mr Hickey tried to hide when they went to arrest him at 6.30am at the Hotel Windsor Marapendi hotel. They said his wife answered when they knocked on the door and she told them her husband was on his way back to Ireland.
But in a search of the room they said they found Mr Hickey’s passport and initiated a search in the rest of the hotel whose entrances had been secured by armed police.
The registration system revealed a second room on the eighth floor was reserved in the name of Mr Hickey’s son. When they knocked on its door Mr Hickey answered. He was arrested in the presence of local media who had been tipped off about the police operation.
WarrantThe OCI said in a statement: “Contrary to reports, Mr Hickey complied fully with the terms of the warrant.”
The police warrant issued by a Rio judge accuses him of intending to supply tickets for the purpose of ticket touting, diverting tickets from legitimate use and false marketing.
Police described Mr Hickey (71), as “shook up” and said he reported feeling unwell. As a precaution they summoned the doctor on call at the hotel, which is the residence of IOC delegates during the Games.
The doctor said his blood pressure was normal but suggested taking him to hospital for observation, given his reported history of heart trouble. He was taken to the Samaritano Barra hospital near the hotel. Once he is released he will be taken in for questioning.
Given his age and health, officers say it is likely that after questioning Mr Hickey will be held under house arrest until his case comes before a judge.
If convicted on all charges , Mr Hickey could receive seven years in prison, but custodial sentences are rarely imposed in Brazil for ticket touting.