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Pat Hickey's family urge Dublin to intervene over detention in Rio prison

Published 26/08/2016

Concerns have been expressed for Pat Hickey's welfare
Concerns have been expressed for Pat Hickey's welfare

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.

"It was entirely inappropriate and unacceptable for a 71-year-old Irish citizen be taken from his bedroom, arrested and walked in a state of undress before a pre-arranged camera crew, after which film and still shots were released to the global media," said Ms James.

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 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.

Mr Ross voiced concerns earlier this week about the manner of the arrests and detention.

"It is not something we are accustomed to here," he said at the time.

"We certainly are concerned about the fact that there are Irish citizens in Brazil in this sort of situation."

Mr Ross was unveiling details of a judge-led inquiry into the scandal which will also probe ticket sales for London 2012, the 2014 winter games in Sochi and any other previous games that come under suspicion.

It is expected to take three months and will investigate "the receipt, distribution and sale of tickets" allocated by the International Olympic Committee and how the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) dealt with those tickets.

This will include "any resale of any tickets as part of hospitality packages".

Separately, the OCI has appointed consultants Grant Thornton to carry out an independent review of its handling of ticketing arrangements for the Rio games.

It is expected to be completed on October 10 when it will be handed to the official State inquiry.

"As part of the Grant Thornton review, submissions will be invited from athletes and their families on their experience of ticketing allocation and availability arrangements for Rio 2016," an OCI spokeswoman said.

"The OCI is committed to a review of its wider corporate governance arrangements and will set out its intentions in this area in due course."

Mr Flanagan said his department is providing ongoing consular assistance to Mr Hickey through the Irish Embassy and Consulate in Brazil.

"My officials are in ongoing contact with the family of this citizen and with legal representative acting on his behalf," he added.

"Senior officials of the department met with Mr Hickey's Dublin-based solicitors on Wednesday, 24 August, and discussed the family's concerns in detail, and explained the department's approach to this consular case."

He added: "I have agreed to meet with the Hickey family and arrangements will be made for this meeting to take place in the coming days. In the meantime, my department is continuing to monitor developments in this consular case closely and is continuing to provide all appropriate consular advice and assistance to Mr Hickey and his family."

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