Irishman charged over alleged illegal selling of Olympic tickets

Police who arrested Dubliner Kevin Mallon in Rio said he had 813 tickets for events

ID card of Kevin James Mallon, a director of THG Sports. Mallon was arrested in Rio charged with illegally re-selling Olympic tickets at high prices. Photograph: Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images

ID card of Kevin James Mallon, a director of THG Sports. Mallon was arrested in Rio charged with illegally re-selling Olympic tickets at high prices. Photograph: Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images

 

A formal charge has been made against Irish man Kevin Mallon along with three other people for his involvement in an alleged illegal ticket selling scheme at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Dubliner Mr Mallon, an employee of sports hospitality company THG, was arrested on Friday night at a hotel in the city along with a translator, with police saying he was in possession of 813 tickets for high-profile sporting events at the Games as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

The formal charge claims that he was “arrested in the act, providing, diverting or facilitating of tickets for cambismo” – the Brazilian term for the illegal resale of tickets.

Some of the tickets allegedly originated with the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), police say.

London-based THG, part of the Marcus Evans group, was the authorised ticket reseller (ATR) used by the OCI for the London Olympics in 2012 and the Sochi Winter Games in 2014. Since then it has been replaced as ATR by Dublin company Pro 10 which was set up last year.

In a statement on Monday, the OCI said it “has no knowledge of the two individuals arrested. The OCI has launched an immediate investigation with our ATR into how these individuals were allegedly in possession of OCI-allocated tickets”.

Prized contract

International Olympic Committee

These are allowed sell on these tickets at an agreed mark-up or as part of travel or hospitality packages.

But the IOC demands that each ATR only sell into the territory of the national Olympic committee from which it holds its contract.° The most prized contract of them all is the one to sell hospitality packages in the host nation, which traditionally accounts for up to 70 per cent of the hospitality market at each Olympic Games.

In April of last year, the Rio contract was won by US company IMM, in partnership with Latin America’s largest airline LATAM.

If the tickets Mr Mallon was selling had been acquired when THG was still the OCI’s ATR and he was selling them to Irish citizens and companies, legal sources in Rio told The Irish Times he might not be in breach of Olympic relegations preventing THG from selling tickets in Brazil.

But Brazilian police accuse him of selling the tickets at more than face value – a crime in Brazil that carries a punishment up to two years in jail.

If he is found to have been selling to non-Irish customers, then Mr Mallon and THG could be charged with encroaching on the territory of IMM and LATAM.

With Rio’s courts operating only a reduced, emergency service until the end of the Olympics, it is not immediately clear when Mr Mallon will next come before a judge.

Fernando Fernandes, a Rio defence lawyer who represented foreigners accused of illegal selling of tickets in Brazil in the past, said that even if the burden of proof pointed to Mr Mallon having attempted to sell tickets above face value to non-Irish customers while in Rio, he should not be detained.

Financial director

In a statement released yesterday, THG said it was “aware” of Mr Mallon’s detention.

It identified him as employed in Dublin as a financial director with the group.

The company said it was investigating the matter and that it “entirely refutes any suggestion that they or he [Mr Mallon] have acted in any way unlawfully”.

The statement continued: “Based on a preliminary review of the facts, we understand Mr Mallon has not breached any local laws or IOC rules. “As a consequence THG will be vigorously defending Mr Mallon as well as taking any appropriate action to stop any illegitimate attempt by the Brazilian authorities to disrupt THG’s legitimate activities.”

In 2014, during the World Cup in Brazil, the then CEO of THG James Sinton was arrested in Rio accused of irregular commercialisation of hospitality packages during the football tournament.

After paying a fine, he left the country.

There are still many luxury seats available for a lot of the main Olympic events as fears over the Zika virus and violence have dampened foreign interest in the Games.

As well as tickets, many high-end hospitality packages – including stays in some of Rio’s leading hotels – remain available four days into the Games.