Family’s jail fears for Irish Olympics chief

Pat Hickey is being held in a Brazilian jail but has not been formally charged
Pat Hickey is being held in a Brazilian jail but has not been formally charged

The family of a senior Olympics official being detained without charge in a Rio prison over an alleged ticket touting operation have condemned his “degrading and humiliating” ordeal.

Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey’s family broke their silence to demand the Irish government urgently intervene as fears mount over his physical and mental health.

The 71-year-old was arrested at a hotel in the Barra da Tijuca area last week and Rio police said he has been formally accused under Brazilian law of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

This is a stage in the legal process that is not equivalent to being charged in British or Irish law but is a preliminary step in that direction. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

Through a solicitor, Mr Hickey’s family said they are extremely concerned about the manner of his arrest, his detention in the high security Bangu prison and the impact on his health.

They also voiced worries about “pre-trial disclosure of what is purported to be evidence to the media” and Mr Hickey’s “right to a fair hearing, given the prejudicial way in which he has been treated to date”.

“This arrest and detention occurred over seven days ago and still no charges have been brought, nor has an appropriate venue for a bail application been made available to Pat Hickey,” said family solicitor Anne Marie James.

“The Hickey family is gravely concerned about the effect this degrading and humiliating ordeal has had on their father and grandfather and how it continues to affect his physical and mental health.

“He has a serious heart condition and they are extremely anxious that he would be immediately released on bail and given the opportunity to respond to the accusations.

“They also, as a priority, want to get him home to Ireland as they have increasing concerns about his safety.”

The family are demanding Dublin’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Sports Minister Shane Ross “urgently intervene” in the case.

They are also seeking meetings with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Brazilian ambassador to Ireland Alfonso Jose Cardoso.

Mr Hickey has temporarily stepped aside from his roles as OCI president and member of the International Olympic Committee’s ruling executive board.

He was also in charge of the influential umbrella group for Europe’s Olympic bodies.

Three other OCI officials, including former Ulster and GB hockey player Stephen Martin, have been questioned by Rio police about the alleged illegal sales of tickets but none of them has been detained.

Irishman Kevin Mallon, a director of THG Sports, which specialises in corporate and sports hospitality and is owned by Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans, has been in custody in Brazil since August 5 over the affair.

Mr Mallon was arrested after police seized Olympic tickets in a Rio hotel, some of which were part of the Irish allocation and some for the opening and closing ceremonies and the football final.

The authorised ticket reseller contracted by the OCI is Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management.

The company said it had legitimate customers for its tickets and Mr Mallon was acting as a collection agent for them in Rio, meeting clients.

THG and PRO10 have denied any wrongdoing over ticket sales.