Olympics chief Thomas Bach in ticket scam spotlight as he gives Brazil a wide berth
Recently under pressure in the Russian doping scandal, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach now faces further problems with Brazilian police wanting to call him as a witness in a suspected Olympic ticket scam.
Rio de Janeiro police official Ronaldo Oliveira said investigators had seen an email that the top suspect in the probe, Ireland’s Olympic chief Patrick Hickey, sent to Bach requesting tickets.
“We want to question Thomas Bach as a witness because he features in emails and we want to clear up certain uncertainties,” Oliveira said.
The German Bach failed to attend the opening ceremony of the Paralympics in Rio this week and the IOC said he has no immediate plans to go back there.
However, the IOC insisted it is ready to fully cooperate with Brazilian police, but said it has had no request for testimony from it.
“Neither the IOC nor the IOC President have been contacted by any Brazilian authority concerning a request for information,” a statement said on Friday.
“The IOC is in this respect only informed by media.
“This includes the publication of obviously private messages not related to the allegations against Mr Hickey by the police.
“There was and there is no request for a hearing as witness for any IOC official.”
The police move comes just after Bach was criticised for the handling of the allegations of state sponsored doping in Russia and for the handling of organising the Games in Rio.
Now Bach is caught up in an affair which centres on the August 17 arrest of Hickey, who is suspected of illegally trading Olympic tickets.
Bach has given no indication of publicly addressing the matter. After attending the funeral of former West German president Walter Scheel on Wednesday, he is due in Croatia this weekend for a 25-year celebration of the founding of their Olympic Committee.
An IOC member since 1995 Hickey, 71, was arrested on August 17 before being released on health grounds under condition of remaining in Brazil.
Frenchman Jerome Valcke lost his post as Fifa general secretary after presumed implication in a ticket touting ring during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Rio police seized some 781 tickets which they say were destined to be sold on the black market and also claim that around US$3 million were generated by the ticket scam.
“If Mr Bach comes to Brazil we will call him as a witness, but this does not make him a suspect in the case,” Rio police commissioner Aloysio Falcao said on Friday.
Bach’s absence from the Paralympic opening ceremony is unprecedented for an IOC president since 1984, and had already led to speculation in the Brazilian media.
In July 2015, Hickey sent an email to Bach asking to be allocated more tickets for the Rio Games, saying he had had more for the London Games in 2012, fraud squad commissioner in Rio Ricardo Barbosa de Souza revealed.
“Mr Bach did not reply but we do know that Mr Hickey got 296 extra tickets for Rio and that is why we want to question the IOC president,” he explained.
The email was discovered after Rio police confiscated the computer of a third person, Martin Burk, also of the Irish Olympic Committee, at their delegation’s hotel.