London Olympics 2012 ticket touts face £20,000 fine

Tickets recovered from a suspected ticket tout
Image caption Olympics organisers want tickets to go to sports fans, not touts

The maximum penalty for ticket touting at the 2012 London Olympics is set to be raised from £5,000 to £20,000, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.

In a statement, Mrs May said: "The change will ensure that there is a more substantial deterrent to serious and organised criminal groups."

Some 6.6 million tickets go on sale to the public next week.

The Home Office said an amendment to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act would be put to Parliament shortly.

Criminal networks

The Metropolitan Police has a dedicated unit - Operation Podium - to deal with touts and Olympic-related fraud.

Since June last year, they have made 49 arrests, including five on Tuesday in early-morning raids in London and Dorset.

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, national Olympic security co-ordinator, said letters had been sent to people who might try to illegally sell Olympic tickets, warning them they were being watched.

"Touts are part of organised criminal networks, often involved in other crimes, and we are committed to dismantling them layer by layer," he said.

People who wish to sell unwanted tickets can use an official exchange system.

Mrs May said: "The 2012 Games will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Games on home soil.

"By increasing the fines for touting, we are sending a clear message to criminals and prospective criminals that it is not worth their while and they are not welcome.

"The focus of the government and everyone involved is to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy. It will not be spoiled by ticket touts."

The home secretary's announcement comes as games organisers face calls for a record of all tickets reserved for officials, politicians and VIPs to be published.

The London Assembly says this would help to uphold public confidence that the allocation of tickets is fair.

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said: "We want to get London 2012 tickets into the hands of enthusiastic sports fans so that our venues are packed to the rafters at Games-time and provide a fantastic atmosphere for the athletes.

"The message is loud and clear that ticket touts are not welcome and will face large fines."

Selling tickets for the London 2012 Games without permission was first made a criminal offence by the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006, with fines of up to £5,000.

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