Pat Hickey: Irish Olympic official steps aside amid tickets row

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Media captionPatrick Hickey is suspected of being involved in selling tickets for higher than their face value

Pat Hickey, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee, has temporarily stood down from all his roles after his arrest in Rio over allegations of illegal ticket sales.

The Irishman, 71, was taken to hospital following his arrest, after requesting medical attention.

Brazilian police claim he was involved in a scheme to resell Olympic tickets at higher than their face value.

They said the scheme could have had profits of 10m reals (£2.4m; $3.1m).

Mr Hickey will be replaced as president of the European Olympic Committees - the body which brings together the 50 national committees across the continent - by his deputy Janez Kocijancic.

Resignation call

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) said in a statement that Mr Hickey was stepping aside "until this matter is fully resolved" and would continue to co-operate and assist with all inquiries.

Acting OCI President William O'Brien said the council would "defend ourselves to the hilt" after the arrest of Mr Hickey.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Patrick Hickey heads the European Olympic Committees and the Olympic Council of Ireland

However, a member of the Daíl (Irish parliament) said Mr Hickey's decision to step down temporarily was not enough and called on the OCI president to resign.

Noel Rock from the ruling Fine Gael party told the BBC that, before his arrest, Mr Hickey had "stonewalled" questions asked of him by the Irish sports minister.

"He refused to answer straightforward, basic questions which were perfectly reasonable for the minister, who after all is responsible for the funding of the Olympic Council [of Ireland] to be asking of him," Mr Rock said.

"He also refused to have any kind of independent presence into any inquiry that may have taken place into the Olympic Council, into its corporate governance and into its commercial dealings, and that simply isn't good enough," he added.

Mr Hickey, a former judoka, has been a member of the 15-strong executive board of the International Olympic Committee since 2012, making him a prime mover in the world of international sports.

Who is Pat Hickey?

Brazilian police said that when officers went to Mr Hickey's hotel room on Wednesday morning, they found his wife there with his Olympic credentials.

Mrs Hickey told them her husband had left Rio de Janeiro for Ireland at the weekend, they said.

"We noticed that there was another room in the hotel under his son's name, so we went to that room and we found Hickey by himself," Detective Ronaldo Oliveira told a press conference.

"There wasn't much in that room, not even any of his clothes. He was in his bathrobe."

Speaking later on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, Mr O'Brien said: "His medical condition has been checked. He is stable at the moment and it will be monitored over the next 24 hours."

Image caption Pat Hickey's IOC badge was displayed by police at a press conference in Rio

Police said the arrest was related to that of fellow Irishman Kevin James Mallon on the day of the Olympic opening ceremony.

More than 700 tickets organised in envelopes clearly marked for sale were found in a safe with Mr Mallon, Detective Ricardo Barbosa told the BBC.

Police had evidence of a plan to sell tickets "illegally masked as hospitality packages," Mr Barbosa said.

Irish broadcaster RTE reports that Mr Hickey faces three potential charges: facilitating ticket touting, forming a cartel, and "ambush" or illicit marketing.

In an interview with RTE last week, Mr Hickey denied any wrongdoing in relation to ticket sales.

Ireland's sports minister is returning to Dublin from Rio for crisis talks.

Mr Mallon, who has been in custody since his arrest on 5 August, is a director of THG Sports, a British corporate and sports hospitality company owned by Ipswich Town Football Club owner Marcus Evans.

THG Sports rejects the allegations, saying Mr Mallon had not sold or sought to sell tickets but had been holding them for collection by clients of the authorised Irish ticket reseller, Pro 10 Management.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of tickets were seized from Mr Mallon and later displayed at a news conference

Pro 10 Management also denies any wrongdoing, saying in a statement released on 12 August that it had always acted properly and fully in line with the guidelines.

THG Sports was an authorised ticket reseller for Ireland, Greece and Malta at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

Mr Hickey's son Stephen worked for the company in 2012.

Detective Barbosa told the BBC that investigators believed "Pro 10 was created as a means for acquiring tickets to be resold by THG" as the Irish Olympic Committee had wanted THG to sell tickets for Rio 2016, he alleged.

On Monday Brazilian authorities issued arrest warrants for four people connected to THG, including Marcus Evans, the British multi-millionaire who owns THG Sports' parent company and Ipswich Town Football Club.

A further three arrest warrants were issued on Wednesday for directors of Pro 10 Management, Brazilian police said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would co-operate with any police investigation and stressed that Mr Hickey should be presumed innocent until proved otherwise.

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