Rio police: Irishmen say their top official handled tickets

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Two Irish Olympic executives have told Rio police that the head of their national committee, who has been arrested in a Summer Games ticket-scalping probe, was in sole charge of ticketing matters, a chief investigator said Thursday.

Olympic Council of Ireland's team leader Kevin Kilty and chief executive Stephen Martin spoke to police for almost four hours as witnesses in the investigation that has ensnared the OCI's longtime president, Patrick Hickey. Earlier this week Kilty and Martin were described as suspects.

"They cooperated with us in confirming the role of Patrick Hickey as the one who handled ticket operations. All of the actions were decided by him. So the police is putting together this puzzle," Ronaldo Oliveira, one of the head investigators, said.

The two Olympic executives wore Ireland's team tracksuits as they offered testimony.

"We are very happy to have cooperated. Nothing to say, sorry," Kilty said to reporters as he walked out of the police headquarters with Martin and another man.

OCI 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.

On Tuesday, Rio police said they suspected 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.

On Thursday, investigator Oliveira declined to say whether the tickets were being used illegally, adding that they were still investigating.

Oliveira said that there was a good chance that the three OCI executives — Kilty, Martin and Henihan — would be given back their passports soon, enabling to return home.

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

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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