By Paulo Prada and Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian police said on Tuesday they had uncovered emails between detained International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Patrick Hickey and the British owner of a ticketing company they said masterminded a scheme selling Olympic tickets illegally.
Police told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro that they were also investigating bank documents for evidence of money laundering linked to the illegal ticketing ring.
Hickey, the former top European official at the IOC, was arrested in Brazil last week on charges that he took part in illegal ticket sales for the Rio Games, which ended on Sunday.
Among the communications police said they found between Hickey and executives of THG Sports, an international sports hospitality company, were emails with Marcus Evans, the British businessman whose namesake company controls THG.
In the emails, they said, Hickey and Evans discussed tickets that are at the heart of the investigation into the alleged scheme, which police said the ring planned to sell at inflated prices and earn as much as 10 million reais ($3.09 million) in profit.
“They had numerous contacts,” said Aloysio Falcão, one of the police investigators in charge of the case.
At a news conference, police showed printouts of some of the emails, including one in which Hickey consults Evans about tickets and tells him “you can use them all.”
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the emails or reach Evans by telephone or email for comment on Tuesday.
Lawyers for Hickey in Brazil and Ireland did not return emails or phone messages.
In addition to Hickey, at least three other members of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) are suspected of involvement in the illegal sales, police said: executive director Stephen Martin, secretary-general Dermot Henihan and treasurer Kevin Kilty. The men’s passports were seized by police on Sunday and they remain in Brazil for questioning.
A Brazilian judge also ordered the seizure of the passports of stand-in OCI president Willie O’Brien, vice-president John Delaney, and an OCI personal assistant, Linda O’Reilly. Those three people, however, have already left Brazil.
A court in Rio de Janeiro said earlier on Tuesday that no date has been set for a hearing for Hickey, who stood aside as head of the OCI and from all his other Olympic roles during the investigation.
Hickey, a 71-year-old Irishman, is in a maximum-security Rio prison following a police raid last week at his hotel on suspicion he participated the illegal sales plot.
Police say the scam in which they allege Hickey was involved was run through Ireland’s official Games ticket reseller, Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management.
PRO10, Brazilian police said, was set up as a substitute for THG, effectively rerouting tickets originally intended for the OCI, and not meant for sale, to the other company.
Although not an authorized seller of tickets for the Games, THG would then sell those it received from PRO10 through hospitality packages based around Olympic tourism, police say.
PRO10 “served to facilitate tickets for THG, so it could tout those tickets, disguised through hospitality services,” said Ricardo Barbosa, another of the police inspectors.
A director of THG Sports, Kevin Mallon, was arrested this month in Brazil and is now sharing a cell with Hickey in the Bangu 10 prison.
PRO10 and THG have denied wrongdoing.
Police say they seized more than 1,000 tickets from THG Sports in two separate raids in Rio. A judge has ordered the arrest of four more THG executives on accusations of fraudulent ticket sales at the Olympics.
THG has said the seized tickets were being held legally on behalf of PRO10.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga-Gayer; Writing by Paulo Prada; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Bill Rigby)