RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A senior Olympic executive from Ireland was arrested and taken to the hospital Wednesday after police carried out a raid at his beachfront hotel as part of an investigation into illegal sale of tickets for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Patrick Hickey, a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, was accused of plotting with at least nine others to sell tickets above face value in a scheme that authorities say netted about $3 million in profits.
At least a half dozen police officers went to the luxury hotel in the upscale Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in the early morning hours to arrest the 71-year-old Hickey, who fell ill and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Details on his condition were not immediately released.
Hickey’s alleged involvement was through Ireland’s Olympic committee, which police said helped transfer tickets to an unauthorized vendor who would set high fees and disguise the transaction as a hospitality package. Hickey was charged with conspiracy, ticket scalping and ambush marketing and will be detained while the investigation continues.
Ireland’s national Olympic committee — the Olympic Council of Ireland — said Hickey decided to “step aside temporarily” as an IOC member and from all his other Olympic positions “until this matter is fully resolved.” Hickey is also president of the OCI, head of the European Olympic Committees and vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.
“Mr. Hickey will of course continue to cooperate and assist with all ongoing enquiries,” the Irish body said in a statement.
The IOC said it “respectfully takes note” of Hickey’s decision to step aside from his Olympic roles.
“Until then, the presumption of innocence prevails,” the committee said in a statement.
Police arrived at the IOC’s hotel at 6 a.m. and found only Hickey’s wife, who refused to tell them where he was. Police, however, found Hickey’s Olympic accreditation badge on the floor, along with his shoes, socks and bag. They asked for the hotel’s help and found him in the adjacent room, registered under his son’s name.
Images by ESPN Brazil show Hickey answering the door to police and stepping into the bathroom naked. Moments later, he walks out in a white bathrobe.
Investigators said Hickey initially was shaken and the hotel’s doctor recommended his transfer to a nearby hospital for tests because of his age and medical history. He remained in the hospital under police custody.
Hickey, a former judo athlete, has been an IOC member since 1995. He has served on the policy-making executive board since 2012.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the committee would “fully cooperate with the police investigation.”
“We don’t know what the allegations or charges are yet,” he said. “We have full confidence in the system here.”
The allegations centered on more than 800 tickets belonging to the Irish committee.
“Today’s arrest shows that the law must be followed,” top police investigator Ricardo Barbosa said after a news conference. “Even more when we are talking about the biggest sporting event that should uphold ethics and an international spirit. We found out that the Irish Olympic Committee ended up facilitating the ticket scalping scheme.”
An Irish executive was arrested last week in the same investigation. Kevin James Mallon is one of the heads of British hospitality provider THG, the main company suspected in the scheme. Mallon was arrested along with a local employee who was working as an interpreter.
Authorities have also issued warrants for four more executives at THG, including Marcus Evans, who owns Marcus Evans Group, the parent company and owner of English soccer club Ipswich Town.
Police are also looking for two soccer agents and a financial adviser at Pro 10 Sports Management, which investigators allege was created to facilitate the transfer of tickets between the Irish Olympic committee and THG, an unauthorized ticket seller.
After the first arrests last week, the Olympic Council of Ireland said it would investigate why some of its tickets were in the possession of the suspects. The OCI name was visible on tickets displayed by police, but the Irish said they had no knowledge of the people in custody.