Pat Hickey, in an upbeat first public statement, has said he is “completely innocent” of all the charges leveled against him in Brazil.
The 71-year-old, who temporarily stood down as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) following his arrest in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, broke his silence for the first time on Sunday evening. He insisted he will fight all the charges laid against him by the Brazilian authorities.
Hickey, who is on bail in Rio with his passport held by the authorities, learned late on Friday that charges against him had been accepted by a judge.
Hickey and Dublin-based ticket agency director Kevin Mallon, also on bail in Rio, and eight others have been charged with ticket-scalping, ambush marketing, theft, tax evasion, money-laundering and criminal association.
The eight include Mallon’s interpreter Barbara Zancope Carnieri. The other seven, four Irish, two British and one Dutch person, are not in Brazil.
Police in Brazil also want to speak to another Irish person, OCI sports director Martin Burke. They believe he knew of arrangements to sell Olympic tickets which is at the center of the scandal that has hit the organization headed, until recent weeks, by Hickey.
Although he is on bail and required to observe a 10 p.m. curfew and banned from the Paralympic Games, Hickey insisted in his Sunday evening statement that he is not under house arrest.
His statement added, “I intend to face all the charges and to fight each and every one of them.
“I am completely innocent of all such charges and I will also vigorously defend my good name and character that I have spent my lifetime building through voluntary service for numerous sporting bodies.
“I believe in the Brazilian judicial system and I am confident that I will be discharged of all accusations.
“This has been a life-changing experience for me, my wife, my four children and my five grandchildren and my priority is to recover my health and see my family as soon as possible.
“I have been very heartened and humbled by the outpouring of support, letters, texts and emails from the thousands of people in Ireland and from the international sporting world.
“I will be making no further comment until the case has been concluded.”
It’s uncertain when the case will be heard fully in the Rio courts. There is speculation that it could take up to 18 months before it goes ahead.
Hickey’s legal team in Brazil told the Sunday Independent that they are confident his passport will be returned at a court hearing this week.
But police in Rio are quoted as saying it is “extremely unlikely” that Hickey will be permitted to return to Ireland while his case is before the courts, regardless of how long the legal process takes.
They say Hickey and others contributed to a scheme that involved the illegal selling of tickets at prices well above face value, under the camouflage of hospitality packages.
Following his arrest in a hotel bedroom Hickey was held in custody for more than a week before he was granted bail.