Hickey claims Oireachtas hearings breach right to fair trial

Former OCI president denied ‘presumption of innocence’ over tickets controversy

 Former president of the Olympic Council of Ireland Pat Hickey and others are due to stand trial in Rio in connection with the tickets controversy. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Former president of the Olympic Council of Ireland Pat Hickey and others are due to stand trial in Rio in connection with the tickets controversy. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Former Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey has accused an Oireachtas committee of breaching his constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process by holding hearings into the Rio Olympics tickets controversy.

Mr Hickey has formally declined an invitation to appear before members of the Oireachtas committee on transport, tourism and sport tomorrow. He said TDs and Senators should not be inquiring into matters being considered by Brazilian authorities.

Mr Hickey and others are due to stand trial in Rio in connection with the tickets controversy.

Following Mr Hickey’s refusal to appear before the Oireachtas committee, it is now considering whether to compel his attendance to answer specific questions on the deal agreed between the OCI and THG, a sports hospitality firm.

The OCI has said it has only recently become aware of the deal which allows THG to act as its official ticket agent for the summer and winter Olympic games until 2026.

However, it has since emerged Mr Hickey met current OCI president Sarah Keane on April 4th when the matter is understood to have been discussed.

Solicitors for Mr Hickey have said all documentation and emails were made accessible to Ms Keane at that time.

A spokeswoman for the OCI confirmed the meeting took place but said the first the board became aware of the details of the contract was when it sought a copy of the correspondence from THG.

The spokeswoman added: “Due to a lack of information available at the OCI offices, Ms Keane enquired as to the status of contracts with THG.

“Mr Hickey provided some information regarding sourcing some of the paperwork but at no time did he indicate to her that there were signed agreements in place with THG up to 2026.”

Ms Keane has said the executive committee of the OCI was not informed of the arrangements but the contract was watertight.

Chairman of the Oireachtas committee Fergus O’Dowd and Fianna Fáil spokesman on sport Robert Troy said clarity needed to be offered on the arrangements between the OCI and THG.

Mr O’Dowd said the committee would discuss how to proceed ahead of the meetings tomorrow.

The Irish Times understands members will seek legal advice on whether the committee can compel Mr Hickey to answer questions on this matter.

Mr Hickey’s solicitors have said he will not appear before the committee. In correspondence sent to the committee, solicitor Giles Kennedy said the hearings were “premature” and “misconceived”.

Mr Kennedy said the members were seeking to undermine his client’s entitlement to due process and a fair trial and were denying him the presumption of innocence.

Legal advice

A copy of legal advice provided to Mr Hickey from his legal team in Brazil was also provided, which outlined their belief that any evidence he gave to the committee, or Mr Justice Carroll Moran’s inquiry into the Rio ticketing arrangements, would be used in the prosecution of him in Rio.

Mr Kennedy’s correspondence adds: “In our respectful submission your committee inquiring into the Rio ticketing controversy at this stage is wrong in law and breaches our client’s Constitutional entitlements to a full and fair procedures and due process.”

Mr Justice Moran’s report into the ticket touting controversy was published this week, criticising the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG owner Marcus Evans. Mr Justice Moran found the deals struck between the two prioritised commercial interests over athletes and their supporters.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross is due to appear before the Oireachtas committee tomorrow. He has not yet made any statement on whether the Government will reinstate nearly €400,000 in funding it withheld from the OCI due to concerns about corporate governance.

The annual funding and a portion of the 2016 allocation were withheld as the Moran inquiry was under way.

It is not known whether the Government is satisfied that all outstanding issues have been resolved.