Pat Hickey praises ‘kindness’ of prison authorities after release
Administrative delay meant Olympic Council of Ireland figure spent extra night in Bangu jail
Former president of the Olympic Council of Ireland Pat Hickey arrives at a residential building after leaving the Bangu Jails Complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
Almost 24 hours after a judge ordered his release from custody, Pat Hickey yesterday finally left the Brazilian prison where he had been locked up for 11 nights.
A delay in processing paperwork meant Mr Hickey had to remain one last night in a cell despite a Rio appeal court judge granting him a writ of habeas corpus at Monday lunchtime.
Under strong sunshine the man who has temporarily stepped aside as Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) head was spared the long walk from the holding units to the gatehouse of the Bangu prison complex, being driven instead in a car with blacked-out windows.
He emerged briefly from the vehicle to hand over paperwork to prison officials manning the gatehouse. Mr Hickey then quickly returned to the car as someone, believed to be a member of his legal team, attempted to shield him from the lenses of the waiting media outside the main entrance.
Alleged schemeThe car then drove off without Mr Hickey making any comment to the press. Despite his release from jail he remains under investigation for his role in the alleged scheme that saw OCI tickets for the Olympic Games passed to British sports hospitality company THG, which was not authorised to sell tickets for the event.
Just over an hour after his release in Brazil Mr Hickey released a statement through his representatives in Dublin.
“I have been released from the police detention system,” it read. “I will now stay in Rio and my lawyers will proceed to have the charges laid against me set aside as there is no substantive proof of any wrong doing on my part.”
It added: “I would like to thank the prison authorities for their kindness they have shown to me. Due to my medical condition, I will be making no further statements.”
As a condition of his release authorities remain in possession of his passport to prevent him leaving Brazil.
If a prosecutor decides to formally charge Mr Hickey in the case he can appeal to have the habeas corpus writ revoked.
ControversyMr Hickey’s exit from prison follows the release on Saturday of Kevin Mallon, the Dublin finance director of THG whose arrest on August 5th in possession of 823 OCI tickets sparked the controversy. He secured habeas corpus from a federal judge in Brasília after efforts in Rio’s courts failed. Both men deny any wrongdoing.
An OCI statement welcomed Mr Hickey’s release. It also welcomed “the news that three OCI officials are due to have their passports returned over the coming days and we look forward to welcoming Kevin Kilty, Stephen Martin and Dermot Henihan home shortly”.
The three men had their passports seized by police on August 21st and were questioned by police last week. Mr Henihan was immediately declared no longer a person of interest. After questioning on Thursday police said there was a “great chance” that Mr Kilty and Mr Martin would also have their passports returned to them shortly.
But as of yesterday afternoon the court which issued the warrant to hold the men’s passports had not yet authorised their return and they remained checked in at a Rio hotel.
Stepped asideMeanwhile, after a meeting on Monday in Frankfurt the executive committee of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), from which Mr Hickey has temporarily stepped aside from his role as president, issued a statement yesterday welcoming his release.
“We believe this was the correct decision as it respects the dignity and fundamental human rights of Mr Hickey. The EOC respectfully requests that these rights continue to be respected, including the principle of proportionality when under criminal investigation and Mr Hickey’s presumption of innocence.
“The EOC executive committee fully respects the Brazilian judicial procedures and it is not our intention to comment on, nor question, any matter relating to a specific legal case in Brazil.”