Image: A sport fan shows his tickets after buying them at the 2016 Rio Olympics ticket office in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian police recommended on Thursday that 10 people be charged in a ticket-touting ring uncovered at the Rio Games, including the man who until recently was Europe’s top Olympic official.
They also said they hope International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach will provide witness testimony in the case, although they added that he is not a suspect.
“If Bach were to return to Brazil we would certainly like to hear from him,” said inspector Ronaldo Oliveira.
He said some of those charged had asked Bach directly for more tickets – and that he had apparently provided them.
“Is it Bach’s job to deal with these tickets? That is something we would like to know,” Oliveira said.
Bach failed to return to Brazil for Wednesday’s opening of the Paralympics, instead attending a friend’s funeral in Germany. The International Paralympic Committee confirmed Bach would not return to Brazil for any of the events.
Among those against whom police are seeking charges are Patrick Hickey, former head of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Martin Burke, the Irish council’s sports director, and Kevin Mallon, a director of international sports hospitality company THG Sports.
Police said they are seeking charges against seven other people: four other THG officials and three from Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management, Ireland’s official Olympic Games ticket reseller.
If found guilty, those charged could face two to five years in prison.
Under Brazilian law, only prosecutors can file charges and can take up to a month to decide whether to do so.
Rio police have accused Hickey, 71, of operating the ticket scalping operation with PRO10. They say PRO10 funnelled tickets to THG Sports, which sold them illegally at inflated prices. All involved have denied wrongdoing.
Authorities told Reuters this week that the ring operated for around eight years and was preparing for other Olympic events such as the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.
The ring appears to have operated similar scams at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Games, according to two police sources, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Hickey had been jailed in Rio’s notorious Bangu prison since his Aug. 10 arrest, but was allowed to leave just over a week ago on condition that he remain in Brazil.
Police said the other eight men are not in Brazil and are considered fugitives.
(Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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