Rio police question top Irish Olympic executives in probe

Houses from a favela are photographed through the Olympic rings prior to the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro police began questioning two of Ireland’s top Olympic executives on Thursday in a Summer Games ticket-scalping probe that has already ensnared the highest official.

Olympic Council of Ireland’s team leader Kevin Kilty and chief executive Stephen Martin arrived at police headquarters on Thursday wearing the Irish team uniform.

“We are here to fully cooperate. That’s all I can say at the moment,” Kilty said to reporters as he entered the building.

Secretary general Dermot Henihan spoke to investigators on Tuesday but they ruled out his involvement in the scheme, saying there was no evidence that indicated wrongdoing on his part.

But Rio police suspect that the highest-ranking members of the OCI plotted with businessmen to help transfer tickets to an unauthorized vendor who would sell them for high fees disguised as hospitality services.

The three officials’ passports, phones and laptops were seized in an Olympic Village raid hours before the closing ceremony. In Kilty’s room, police found 228 tickets, which the Irishman told police were reserved for athletes but had been left unused.

The alleged scheme unraveled at the beginning of the Games when Kevin Mallon, head of the British hospitality provider THG, was arrested in Rio with tickets that were allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland.

OCI President Patrick Hickey, 71, was arrested last week in a dawn raid at his hotel and transferred to a hospital with chest pains.

A member of the International Olympic Committee’s ruling executive board, Hickey was in charge of the influential umbrella group for Europe’s Olympic bodies.

Now he faces charges of conspiracy, ticket scalping and ambush marketing, with authorities accusing him of being part of a plot to make $3 million by illegally selling Rio Games tickets above face value. The strongest evidence police have found are emails exchanged between Hickey and the head of company that wasn’t an authorized vendor discussing opening and closing ceremony tickets to resell.

Hickey is held in Rio’s Bangu prison complex. His attorney has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case.

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