Belfast Telegraph

Minister reprimands ex-Olympic boss for failing to attend Rio ticketing inquiry

The man at the centre of the Rio Olympic ticketing scandal has been criticised for failing to appear before a powerful oversight committee.

Sports minister Shane 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.

Mr Hickey declined to attend the special hearing on the grounds that it could interfere with his right to a fair trial in Brazil.

During a meeting of the committee on Thursday the minister said an inquiry by Mr Justice Carroll Moran had exposed the "shameful standards of corporate governance" of Mr Hickey.

He added that Mr Hickey triumphed commerce over competitors as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).

Mr Ross said the OCI and Mr Hickey showed "utter disregard for the interests of athletes, their family and friends, and Irish spectators generally".

The inquiry into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games ticket touting controversy 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.

The Moran report strongly criticised the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG, a sports hospitality firm. A senior executive at THG was arrested in Rio last year carrying tickets that came from the OCI and Pro10.

Pro10 was the authorised reseller or distributor of tickets for the OCI after THG's bid was rejected by the Rio Organising Committee.

Mr Hickey, who is back in Ireland but awaiting trial in Brazil, has said the inquiry contained a number of significant inaccuracies.

Mr Ross said it would have been useful for Mr Hickey to explain his claims 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.

"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 said.

Mr Ross added 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 did not co-operate with the investigation by Judge Carroll Moran.

Neither did Pro10, nor the International Olympic Committee or the Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Mr Ross said it was "regrettable" that some parties did not cooperate with the inquiry but insisted it did not undermine the probe.

The committee was adjourned to Friday morning after a member of staff was taken ill.

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