Olympic scandal as Irish executive arrested over 'illegal sale of tickets worth up to €3m'

NewsBy Sunday World
An image of the seized tickets
An image of the seized tickets

The Olympic Council of Ireland has found itself at the centre of a major ticket-tout scandal after two individuals were arrested for allegedly selling tickets earmarked for the organisation.

The OCI is now investigating why tickets allocated to the organisation were found in the possession of the individuals arrested by Rio de Janeiro police.

Irishman Kevin James Mallon, one of the heads at hospitality provider THG Sports, was arrested with tickets for the Rio Games, police said yesterday.

Mallon is accused of conspiracy and helping sell tickets illegally. Another employee of the firm, Barbara Carnieri, was also arrested.

The then-CEO of the same company, James Sinton, was arrested in 2014 as part of the investigation into the alleged World Cup ticket scam, police said.

Stephen Hickey, the son of OCI president Pat Hickey, has worked as a manager for THG Sports in the past.

There is no suggestion that the Hickeys are involved in this current investigation.

THG Sports was Ireland’s authorised ticket reseller for London 2012.

However this year, Pro 10 is acting as the authorised ticket seller (ATR) for the OCI.

Investigative police in Brazil arrested a second employee who was working as an interpreter during the games in a Friday raid.

The OCI name was visible on tickets displayed by police, but the organisation said it had "no knowledge" of the two individuals arrested.

The seized tickets displayed at a press conference in Rio

“The OCI has launched an immediate investigation with our ATR [authorised ticket reseller], Pro10, into how the individuals were allegedly in possession of OCI allocated tickets,” the organisation said in a statement yesterday.

 “The OCI strictly adheres to the IOC regulations around ticket allocation, sale and resale. We are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness.”

Mallon and Carnieri were allegedly found with a large number of tickets, including hospitality packages, at a serviced apartment in Barra da Tijuca, near Rio’s Olympic Park, on Friday.

Inspector Ricardo Barbosa told a press conference in Rio that THG was offering tickets for the opening ceremony for more than four times the original price, and claimed the combined worth of the illegal ticket sales could have been up to €3m.

According to the Brazilian broadcaster Globo, in one case a man bought ten tickets for his family spending $80,000 (€72,202).

Police intervened, and instead of going to the event, the family were brought to the police station to give statements.

Civil Police chief Fernando Veloso told Globo, "These are real tickets. They are originals. They are offered as part of the package, facilities like the transport of passengers, and other things like that."

Mallon has been accused of conspiracy, illicit marketing and facilitating the touting of tickets.

Carnieri, an interpreter, is accused of illicit marketing.

Police said in total they have seized more than 1,000 “very high value” tickets.

Mallon was detained by a court on Friday pending the police investigation.

A spokesman for the organisers of the Games said Brazil had learned from the experience of hosting the World Cup in 2014.

“We created a group with the police around two years ago exactly to fight against this kind of sale,” said Donovan Ferreti, who is in charge of ticketing for Rio 2016.

“And because of that we had this great action today.”

The tickets are believed to have included ones for Friday’s opening ceremony, which featured supermodel Gisele Bündchen as the Girl from Ipanema and runner Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima lighting the Olympic Flame.

The most expensive ticket cost £1,100 (€1,292).

On Friday, a special Olympic court convened in Rio de Janeiro ordered Mallon to be imprisoned while Civil Police detectives investigated the incident.

Judge Rodrigo Faria de Souza also ordered the seizure of Mallon’s tickets, his passport, laptop, mobile phone and USB drives.

He is receiving consular assistance from Irish authorities in Brazil.

In 2014, 12 people, including Raymond Whelan, the British boss of FIFA-linked firm Match Hospitality, were accused of running a similar ticket scam.

It was alleged to have existed for four World Cups, earning as much as £52m (€61m) per tournament.

The charges against Whelan were dropped in 2015.