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Rio ticket probe Northern Ireland Olympic executive Martin has 'nothing to hide'

By Cathal McMahon

Published 23/08/2016

Passport seized: Olympic Council of Ireland Chief Executive Stephen Martin checks into a new hotel in Rio De Janeiro yesterday
Passport seized: Olympic Council of Ireland Chief Executive Stephen Martin checks into a new hotel in Rio De Janeiro yesterday

A senior sports official from Northern Ireland who was forced to hand over his passport to police in Rio has "nothing to hide", an Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) executive has said.

OCI chief executive Stephen Martin, who is from Co Down, was one of three Irish officials to have their passports, phones and laptops seized by police as part of a probe into alleged illegal ticket sales.

Last night, the Irish Republic's Chef de Mission for the Olympics, Kevin Kilty, said he was "absolutely shocked and amazed" at Sunday's raid and also alleged he was being targeted because he was Irish.

Mr Kilty, Bangor man Martin and General Secretary Dermot Henihan were forced to reschedule flights home and move hotels yesterday after a judge made an order on Sunday for their passports to be seized.

Their phones, computers and other items were also taken during raids on the OCI offices and accommodation at the Games.

The seizures took place just hours before the curtain came down on the Rio Olympics, which have been mired in controversy from an Irish perspective.

Mr Martin was previously a director of Coaching at Ulster Hockey. He is a sporting legend in Northern Ireland and one of only four people from here to have ever won a gold medal at the Olympics.

He picked up the medal when he played for the GB hockey team which was victorious in Seoul in 1988.

There is no suggestion that Mr Martin has done anything wrong.

The arrest of Irishman Kevin Mallon on August 5 for allegedly touting tickets began a chain of events that has brought shame on Irish sport.

Warrants were also issued for the seizure of passports belonging to FAI chief executive and OCI vice president John Delaney, acting OCI president Willie O'Brien and personal assistant Linda O'Reilly on Sunday.

Speaking yesterday afternoon, Mr Kilty denied having any knowledge of the alleged ticketing scam and he claimed that he had been unable to contact former president Pat Hickey since the 71-year-old was arrested last week at the Windsor Marapendi Hotel in the city.

He revealed the raid on Sunday was "as out of the blue for us as it was for anyone else".

"I'm just absolutely shocked and amazed. This is unprecedented, it was the last thing I would ever have expected. We are here to cooperate. We will fully cooperate with the police, we have nothing to hide. We are here to do a job, we have always been here to do a job.

"All I can do is speak honestly and that's what I intend to do."

Both Mr Kilty and Mr Martin arrived in an official Rio Olympics 2016 car at their new hotel yesterday afternoon. They were met by OCI General Secretary Dermot Henihan, who fell ill shortly after police seized his passport on Sunday.

All three were scheduled to fly out of the country yesterday but were forced to change their plans after Sunday's raid.

Speaking shortly after arriving Mr Kilty denied any involvement in the alleged ticketing scam at the Olympics.

He explained: "I have absolutely no involvement. I have nothing to do with ticketing. Nothing to do with it."

The former international clay pigeon shooter was asked why he was being targeted and he responded: "I'm Irish and I'm out here, I suppose. It's the Olympic Council that is being targeted, that's all I can say."

Asked if he was worried about the prospect of going to prison like his colleague Mr Hickey, Mr Kilty answered: "I have no idea, no idea. All I can say is I have to find some lawyers and present to the police tomorrow, which is what we'll do."

Asked if he had anything more to add the Chef de Mission responded: "I can't really say anything more as I don't know anything."

Meanwhile, World Cup winner Romario, who played a major role in kickstarting the investigation into ticket touting, has backed the fraud probe into Pat Hickey and the Olympic Council of Ireland.

In a statement, the former Barcelona and Brazil star said he alerted the government to the "activities of the ticket mafia". Romario, who is now a Socialist senator in Brazil, said: "I told them it was my belief that they would also act during Rio 2016. "I am satisfied with the police action that has taken place."

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