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The BBC's David Willis
"US Justice Department says the two men syphoned more than $1m"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 July, 2000, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
US Olympic officials deny bribery
Fireworks celebrate Salt Lake's winning bid
Corruption overshadowed Salt Lake City's winning bid
Two former US Olympic officials have vowed to fight charges that they bribed members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award the 2002 winter games to Salt Lake City in Utah.

The US Justice Department accuses Thomas Welch and David Johnson of secretly paying more than $1m "to influence the votes of more than a dozen IOC members."


The idea that we defrauded the bid committee or anybody else is preposterous. So is the charge that we bribed anybody.
  Thomas Welch, former president of Salt Lake City bid committee
But Mr Welch described the charges as preposterous and said he was sure they would be acquitted.

The US Justice Department began investigating the Salt Lake City bid two years ago following allegations that cash, scholarships and other gifts were offered as inducements to selectors on the IOC.

Conspiracy

Mr Welch, the former president of the Salt Lake bid committee, and Mr Johnson, his deputy, are charged with one count of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud and four counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering.

Thomas Welch
Scandal: Welch was forced to resign

Each of the charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

They are also accused of falsifying the bid committee's records, "so as to conceal their activities."

But Mr Welch said: "The idea that we defrauded the bid committee or anybody else is preposterous. So is the charge that we bribed anybody."

Speaking outside his California home, he said: "We will be acquitted and we will present a defence that the people of Utah will understand."

Scapegoats

Both men have portrayed themselves as scapegoats for the bribery scandal.

Juan Antonio Samaranch
The IOC president has come in for criticism
Mr Johnson's lawyer said: "What the government is doing from a moral standpoint is far worse than what Johnson and Welch ever did.

"It will cause irreparable harm to other people in this community and to the effort to put on successful games."

Officials involved in organising the Salt Lake winter games have urged the two men to settle the case out of court in order to avoid further embarassment for Utah.

Severe criticism

The Justice Department said the two accused had "personally diverted $130,000".

Since details of the scandal emerged, visits to candidate cities by IOC members have been banned in a move to prevent the improprieties which tarnished Salt Lake City's bid.

The IOC and its president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, have come in for severe criticism over the bribery allegations surrounding the 2002 games.

Nine IOC members resigned or were expelled for allegedly receiving inducements.

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See also:

15 Mar 99 |  World
Timeline: Olympics corruption scandal BBC News >>
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Olympic Spirit: Shiftier, Sleazier, Dodgier? BBC News >>
24 Jan 99 |  World
Press review: Scant surprise at scandal BBC News >>
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Analysis: Putting the Olympic house in order BBC News >>
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