Anyone caught in the illegal sale of tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games in London will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, according to detective chief inspector Nick Downing of the London Metropolitan Police. A task force of 36 operatives that is being called Operation Podium has been established to combat the criminals who are already busy scalping tickets for the summer games next year.
Inspector Downing said that the problem is not so much with individuals as with organized crime. He said there is evidence that criminal gangs are involved, and the task force is keeping tabs on a number of known touts and illegal websites. Already there have been 36 arrests by operatives, most of them British citizens. There are hundreds of known touts that have been identified as scalpers in previous Olympics including the World Cup in South Africa last year.
On March 15, about 6.6 million tickets will go on sale to the public, with an additional 2.2 million going to sponsors, sports associations and the Olympic committees. Prices will range from 20 pounds to around 2,012 pounds for the best opening ceremony seats.
Downing said that he does not expect to catch or arrest all of the guilty parties, but hopes to make ticket scalping too risky for most big operators to attempt. He said that the British team will work with international law enforcement, and offenders will be pursued wherever they are. Assets may be seized and money laundering investigations may be undertaken, in addition to fines and even imprisonment. At present the maximum fine for this offense is 5,000 pounds, but stiffer penalties may be enforced upon major offenders.
The inspector also commented that the U.K. seems to harbor more than its share of ticket scalpers, and he wants to make the penalties great enough to deter even the most determined criminals and make the London Olympics a hostile environment for potential scalpers.