Belfast Telegraph

Minister queries why ex-Olympic boss refuses to go before body over ticket sales

Sports minister Shane Ross has questioned why the man at the centre of the Olympic ticketing scandal refused to appear before a powerful oversight committee.

Mr Ross said it was "inconsistent" that Ireland's former Olympic boss Pat Hickey answered questions to the media but failed to discuss his involvement in alleged illegal ticket sales with the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

The committee met on Thursday to discuss the Justice Moran Report into ticketing at the Rio Olympic Games.

Mr Hickey has claimed there were inaccuracies in the report which found that deals between the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and THG Sports, owned by Marcus Evans, and Pro10, a second company linked to the businessman, were more concerned with their commercial interests than the athletes, their friends, relatives and supporters.

The inquiry into Olympic tickets sales was sparked after Mr Hickey, the former OCI chief, was arrested and detained in prison in Brazil on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

Speaking at the committee hearing, Mr Ross said it would have been useful for Mr Hickey to explain his claims of inaccuracies within the report to the committee.

"I respect the right of anybody not to self-incriminate, but I find it somewhat inconsistent to be able to go and answer questions to the media and not be able to come here," said Mr Ross, referring to recent comments Mr Hickey made in the media.

"He did say there were inaccuracies in the report, which I don't accept. I think it would be useful if he would come here and explain his point of view and I don't think it would in any way prejudice his trial," the minister added.

Mr Hickey, who is hoping to return to the Olympic International Council, also declined to co-operate with the investigation by Judge Carroll Moran.

Mr Ross said it was regrettable that some parties did not co-operate with the inquiry but insisted it did not undermine the probe.

He said that even if the inquiry had the powers of compulsion it would have "encountered great difficulty exercising these powers over parties outside the state such as THG, the Rio Organising Committee and the International Olympic Committee."

"In addition, the right against self-incrimination would remain," he added.

The minister said that at the time of the ticketing scandal the "flagship of Irish Sport was very much in the hands of one man (Mr Hickey)" and vowed that it would never happen again.

"Personal fiefdom was run here," said Mr Ross.

"That is a principle we should oppose in the future. It certainly won't happen in Tokyo," he added.

Mr Hickey was arrested and detained in prison in Brazil during the games last August on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

He returned to Ireland after several weeks in prison and is awaiting a trial in Rio.

The Government commissioned a report into the scandal of alleged illegal ticket sales for the Rio games.

The inquiry found THG Sports, owned by Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans, and Pro10, a second company linked to the businessman, paid 1.6 million US dollars to get rights to resell Ireland's tickets at the London, Sochi and Rio Olympics.

Judge Carroll Moran found deals between the OCI and THG and Pro10 were more concerned with their commercial interests than the athletes, their friends, relatives and supporters.

Kevin Mallon, a director of THG Sports, was also detained last August in Brazil on charges of mis-selling tickets for the Rio games.

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