Prosecutor confident court will accept OCI ticketing case
Court must accept charges against Patrick Hickey and Kevin Mallon or throw them out
As Brazilian police wound up investigation of the OCI tickets case, further details emerged of text messages between Pat Hickey and the president of the IOC Thomas Bach in the run-up to the Rio Games. Photograph: Larry French/Getty Images
With Rio’s police winding up their investigation into the ticketing arrangements of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) at last month’s Games, the focus now switches to the courts.
This has already started to happen. On Tuesday a public prosecutor filed charges against Patrick Hickey, who has temporarily stepped down as OCI president, and nine other people including Kevin Mallon, the Irishman whose arrest on August 5th in possession of several hundred OCI tickets sparked the controversy.
Rio’s special court for supporters and large events now has to decide whether to accept these charges or throw them out.
This decision is expected to be taken quickly, with any delay in part explained by the fact that Wednesday was a national holiday in Brazil.
ConfidentGiven the case put together by police, Marcos Kac, the prosecutor who signed the charges against Hickey and Mallon, is confident the court will accept the case, initiating the next phase in the process, called the collection of proofs.
Eventually the judge in charge will hold a court session in which the defendants are heard. Kac says this could happen within a month.
But Brazil’s justice system is notorious for its sclerotic pace, meaning even apparently straightforward cases can drag on for years. As a result foreigners on trial can request the return of their passports rather than remain stuck in Brazil for several years waiting for a verdict. In non-violent cases like the OCI affair, the courts are inclined to let defendants leave the jurisdiction, a possibility already acknowledged by Kac.
A comparison can be made with the Fifa World Cup ticket touting case from 2014 that is only now reaching a conclusion in Rio over two years after the tournament ended.
Former Algerian footballer Mohamadou Lamine Fofana and 11 others are accused of crimes similar to those now levelled against Hickey and Mallon. Kac is the prosecutor in this case as well
Fofana was allowed to leave Brazil while the case proceeded. Now it is reaching a conclusion.
In his closing arguments in July, Kac asked that Fofana and nine other defendants be given prison terms if convicted.
The prosecutor says he is realistic about the chances of Fofana returning voluntarily to Brazil to serve jail time if the judge issues custodial sentences. But he warns that Interpol will be notified that he is wanted by the country’s authorities if he gets jail time.
As Brazilian police wound up their investigation on the OCI tickets controversy, further details emerged of text messages exchanged between Hickey and the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach in the run up to the Rio Games.
According to a log of messages compiled by Bralian police, Hickey texted Bach in July 2015 comparing the OCI ticket allocation for Rio unfavourably with the one it had got forLondon 2012 and sent a “wish list” of significantly more tickets for some of the Games’ most sought-after events.
Hickey sought more tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, the men’s football final, the men’s basketball final and the men’s 100 metres final.
Warm relationshipIt is not clear if Bach replied or took any action relating to Hickey’s request. The Irish Times has not been able to confirm either the OCI’s original ticket allocation or the final number it was awarded for Rio.
Other messages indicate Hickey and Bach had a warm relationship, with the latter sending the Irish official “congratulations and a bug hug” at the end of the Baku European Games, an event that Hickey was instrumental in organising.
A further text message reveals Hickey’s ambition to stay on as president of the European Olympic Committees next year. While he said he was “finishing as president of Olympic Council of Ireland due to pressure of work with my other activities”, Hickey said he wished to retain his seat on the IOC executive board and to hold other senior positions in the international movement.
The text is contained in a log of messages extracted from Hickey’s phone, which was seized by Brazilian police.