Pat Hickey: Sports Minister Ross criticises ex-OCI's president committee no-show

Pat Hickey
Pat Hickey is facing Brazilian charges of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing

Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross has criticised Pat Hickey's refusal to appear before a parliamentary committee discussing a report into last year's Olympic ticketing controversy.

Hickey was arrested by Rio police at the 2016 Games during an investigation into alleged illegal ticket sales.

An Irish Government-commissioned report into the affair has been published.

Hickey claimed the report contained "inaccuracies" but refused to appear before the committee on Thursday.

Ireland's former Olympic boss was charged by the Brazilian authorities on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing and though he returned to Ireland last December, he is still awaiting a trial date in Brazil.

Mr Ross said it was "inconsistent" that Ireland's former Olympic boss had given media statements in recent days but failed to discuss his involvement in alleged illegal ticket sales with the Irish Parliament's Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Justice Moran's report 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.

Rio organisers rejected THG involvement

The report also stated that after THG's bid to become the OCI's official ticket seller at the Games was rejected by Rio's organising committee, the appointment of Pro10 only disguised THG's continuing role.

The inquiry into Olympic tickets sales was sparked after Mr Hickey, the former OCI President, was arrested in his Rio hotel last August.

Hickey, THG and Pro10 have all denied wrongdoing and the former OCI president has vowed to clear his name.

"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 media comments from Hickey.

"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 his International Olympic Committee roles, also declined to co-operate with Judge Moran's investigation.

Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross
Shane Ross said Pat Hickey had been running a "personal fiefdom" in his Olympic Council of Ireland role

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

The Sports Minister added 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," added Mr Ross.

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

After a number of weeks in prison in Brazil, Hickey stayed in Brazil after being released on bail before being allowed to return home to Ireland last December, where he awaiting a trial date in Rio.

A vote last February saw Sarah Keane becoming the new OCI president although Hickey has insisted that he wants to resume his roles with the International Olympic body, which included being president of the European Olympic Committees.

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