Evidence of Corruption 'Irrefutable,' IOC Official Says
By Steven Pearlstein
NEW YORK, Jan. 20—A senior International Olympic Committee official said tonight there is "solid, irrefutable evidence" a number of IOC members or their relatives received cash, gifts or donations directly or indirectly from organizers of the Salt Lake City Games.
IOC Vice President Richard W. Pound, who is chairman of a special IOC panel looking into allegations of corruption and bribery surrounding Salt Lake City's selection as site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, said in several cases the amounts exceeded $100,000.
Pound and other members of the panel huddled in New York today with their lawyers and members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee who have been cooperating with the IOC since the influence-peddling scandal became public last month.
One member of the IOC has resigned in the aftermath of the mushrooming scandal, while several other IOC members have disputed the allegations of wrongdoing in writing. Pound and four colleagues on the panel reviewed those responses here for the first time today, along with the Salt Lake committee officials.
"When you see it in black and white, it's pretty blatant stuff, so I don't think the people involved are going to be able to explain it away," Pound said as he arrived this morning from Toronto. "But we'll see."
Pound and the other panel members are due to fly to IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, this weekend to present their final report to the body's executive committee. Following the presentation, the IOC members mentioned in the report will have an opportunity to present their own defense. If they fail to sway the committee, they will be asked to resign or face expulsion by the full 114-member IOC at a special meeting scheduled for March.
The IOC investigation is one of four looking into allegations of wrongdoing connected with Salt Lake City's Olympics bid. The Justice Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the SLOC are conducting separate probes. A fifth investigation could be launched by the state of Utah. State Attorney General Jan Graham announced today she would review IOC and SLOC ethics committee reports and begin a separate investigation if she determines there are potential violations of state law.
Meanwhile, two senior Olympics marketing officials said today corporate sponsors of the Salt Lake Games remained committed to their Olympics contracts despite the corruption scandal, though they acknowledged for the first time negotiations for additional contracts were being affected.
"Two sponsors have asked that we hold the announcement of their support," said John Krimsky Jr., the USOC's managing director of business affairs. He refused to identify the sponsors. "Clearly the critical aspect for us is the speed in which we can conclude the investigation," Krimsky said.
Salt Lake still must raise $250 million in sponsorships toward meeting its $1.45 billion budget, though the deadline is not until August 2000.
Michael Payne, the IOC's director of marketing, dismissed speculation the Games may have to be moved to another city, stressing the 2002 Olympics "will take place in Salt Lake City."
In Salt Lake City today, Stephanie Pate, a former secretary for the city's organizing committee, met with Justice Department officials at the local FBI office. Pate's lawyer, David Watkiss, said Tuesday he expected the federal officials to question Pate about her knowledge of gifts and money given by the committee to IOC members between 1991 and 1995.
Pate was subpoenaed last week to appear before a federal grand jury today, but she and Watkiss instead met with Justice Department officials. Pate may testify before the grand jury in the near future, Watkiss said.
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt said this week he hoped the SLOC independent review would be completed this week, before the IOC announces its findings. But Robert Garff, chairman of the organizing committee's board of trustees, said it is more likely the panel's findings would be announced next week.
Most of the information gathered by the IOC's internal investigation has come from the SLOC, which Pound credited with moving quickly to oust its top officials and provide detailed information.
But the IOC's own review has been made more difficult by the criminal investigation launched late last month by the Justice Department and the FBI, Pound said.
Pound said Tom Welch, the former president of the Salt Lake City bid committee, declined to give him detailed answers after his attorney advised him the responses eventually might be obtained by federal investigators and used against him in a criminal proceeding.
The IOC also moved to obtain a complete set of records from the Salt Lake group, including correspondence, internal memos and financial accountings, before the federal investigators put them under seal this month.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting from today's editions, reported the Swiss-based IOC considers the U.S. government probe the "biggest potential problem" it faces.
"We will have to consider what the position of the IOC will be if we are served with a subpoena to appear in front of a grand jury," the Journal quoted from the draft report. "This is a particularly odious procedural part of criminal law in which the accused virtually have no rights."
Pound said the instances of corruption engaged in by some IOC members were so egregious that they could not be explained away by differences in the way business is conducted in some cultures. Thirteen IOC members have been implicated publicly in the corruption scandal. They are from Ecuador, Libya, Sudan, Finland, Congo Republic, the Netherlands, Ivory Coast, Mali, South Korea, Kenya, Chile, Swaziland and Russia. The Finnish member, Pirjo Haeggman, resigned Tuesday.
Even as Pound and his colleagues here complete their initial investigation of the activities of the SLOC, revelations from around the world about other bidders for other Olympic Games have forced the IOC into ordering a wider probe, going back at least a decade.
"I don't think any of us believes that Salt Lake is the first time this sort of thing has happened," Pound, a prominent Montreal lawyer, said in an interview in Canada Tuesday.
Pound acknowledged for the first time the IOC may have sent the wrong signal to its members over the years by allowing bid cities and their corporate sponsors to spend millions of dollars pressing their campaigns -- shuttling members around in corporate jets, hosting lavish parties and outings and making large donations to sports programs in the home countries of IOC members.
"You can say, as many people have, that we let things get a little out of hand, and perhaps we did," Pound said. "But when you're talking about substantial benefit going to family members of IOC board members, that's where we draw the line. Every committee member should have known that."
As the chief negotiator of TV rights for the Olympics, Pound said he himself had once been offered a bribe of a million dollars by a foreign TV network to draft terms of a contract in its favor. "I said to them, 'Look, please don't do that to me. I do this because I love the Olympics,' " he recalled. He declined to name the network.
In recent weeks, officials from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch on down have conceded they had heard rumors over the years of IOC members accepting gifts for themselves or family members from bid cities. There are also stories of "agents" who professed to be able to "deliver" votes of IOC members in exchange for large consulting fees -- stories reportedly that are repeated in Pound's report.
But whenever the IOC asked officials from losing and winning cities about such allegations, Pound said, they were invariably met with a "wall of silence" when pressed for names or specifics.
And on several occasions, Pound said, when individual IOC members were confronted with such allegations, the members dismissed them as mere rumor or responded with angry denials. Some of those same members, he added, now are implicated in the Salt Lake investigation.
"That has been the frustrating part. We didn't have any subpoena power over these people, we didn't have any solid evidence, so what we were left with was the hope that by simply confronting them we might cause them to change their ways," Pound said. "Apparently that didn't work."
Staff writers Bill Brubaker in Salt Lake City and George Solomon in New York contributed to this report.
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