Not many people will be holding their breath until they see Pat Hickey in the dock in a court in Rio de Janeiro when his trial opens on theft, tax evasion, money laundering and other charges in late November.
Both he and Dublin man, Kevin Mallon, have insisted on their innocence but the chances are that Hickey will not risk the possibility that the court in Brazil might find otherwise. He is likely to forfeit the €400,000 bond he paid as a condition for being allowed to return to Ireland last Christmas and can be expected to cite medical reasons as to why he cannot make the trip back to Rio. The bail monies were put up by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), of which Hickey was a vice-president.
His televised arrest in a hotel room during the Olympic Games has sparked a number of investigations including into his 29-year tenure as supremo of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).
He wielded so much power that he was able to publicly endorse a successor, FAI chief executive, John Delaney, to take over the reins in 2020. Delaney, whose passport was briefly sought by the Brazilian authorities in the wake of Hickey’s arrest, sensibly did not travel to the Olympic Games, even though he was a vice president of the OCI before stepping down in the wake of the ticket scandal.
In his report into the Olympic ticket fiasco published last month Judge Carroll Moran questioned the payment of a €60,000 annual ‘honorarium’ given to Hickey after it was proposed by Delaney at a meeting of the OCI executive. It came on top of the €300,000 received since 2010 by Hickey, who Judge Moran also found was involved in a “concealed relationship” with millionaire ticket agent Marcus Evans and his company THG.
The report found that under Hickey the OCI prioritised its commercial relationships over the needs of families and supporters of Irish athletes and that he had entered a long-term agreement with THG without the knowledge of members of the OCI board.
Hickey has managed to exercise extraordinary control over the lives of many Irish Olympians and other sportspeople for so long that his stewardship of the OCI and his membership of the powerful International Olympic Committee was taken for granted even though governance issues have erupted on other occasions during his years at the helm. He has always emerged on top through his influence over many of the sporting federations and associations that make up the Irish Olympic family.
Some 30 years ago, he was embroiled in another controversy from which he also emerged unscathed and which involved the sport of politics rather than the politics of sport. The story began with the appointment of none other than Bertie Ahern as Minister for Labour in the Fianna Fáil government led by Charles Haughey in the late 1980s. As minister, Ahern was charged with setting up a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to protect workers in potentially dangerous employment, including construction, fishing, farming and the like.
Ahern appointed his close associate and one-time party fundraiser, Des Richardson, to the board of the new HSA. As a member of its finance committee, Richardson was asked to find a headquarters for the new Authority. He in turn asked Pat Hickey, wearing his hat as an auctioneer and insurance broker with a business in Dorset Street in Dublin, to value the various tenders received by the HSA for its new offices.
The successful bidder was McGarrell Reilly, a property company which was already building apartments and offices close to Holles Street hospital in Dublin 2. The impressive HSA headquarters was located in the offices at Hogan Place across the road from the rear of the hospital.
It later emerged that both Richardson and Hickey had each acquired an expensive apartment at unknown prices in the complex built by McGarrell Reilly on Holles Street. This was no doubt a complete coincidence or a vote of confidence by the pair in the quality of the builder’s work.
Either way all three went on to greater things with Richardson becoming very wealthy with a luxury Foxrock home, in no small way due to his close association with Ahern and Fianna Fáil. Sean Reilly of McGarrell Reilly joined the ranks of the Maple 10 who infamously purchased shares in Anglo Irish Bank in an effort to dilute the holding of Sean Quinn in the failing bank in July 2008.
And Hickey, well his record is…Olympian.