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Pound takes stand in Olympic bribery trial

Pound takes stand in Olympic bribery trial

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Canadian who headed the International Olympic Committee's inquiry into the Salt Lake bid scandal took the stand Wednesday in the bribery trial of the two men who campaigned to bring the 2002 Winter Games to Utah.

Dick Pound, an IOC member since 1978, was just beginning his testimony about the expulsion of seven delegates for taking money from the Salt Lake bid campaign when the judge called a jury break. Three other implicated IOC members resigned in 1999 because of the scandal.

Pound said IOC members can be expelled by a vote of the entire body for acting "in any way that's unworthy of the IOC" or in violation of an oath to "keep myself free of any political or commercial influence."

The IOC elects its own members, "the unusual feature" of the organization, he said. Delegates swear to represent the organization, not their own countries.

Justice Department prosecutor John Scott is trying to show that Salt Lake bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson subverted IOC principles by allegedly offering them bribes. Welch signed a pledge to abide by the Olympic charter.

Earlier Wednesday, an Olympic bid auditor testified he wasn't told -- and should have been informed -- about payments made to IOC members who in 1995 awarded Utah the 2002 Winter Olympics.

James Beardall, who was chairman of the bid organization's audit subcommittee, said many of the payments were made without any documentation about what they were for.

"Our procedures required documentation," Beardall told Justice Department fraud prosecutor Richard Wiedis.

But under defense questioning, Beardall acknowledged that the board delegated spending decisions to bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson, and that many of the perks given to International Olympic Committee delegates wouldn't have fit under any of the bid committee's broad, vaguely defined budget categories.

"You weren't interested in tying Mr. Welch and Mr. Johnson's hands, were you?" asked Welch lawyer Bill Taylor.

"No," said Beardall.

His testimony, like that from board chairman Frank Joklik earlier Tuesday, paints a picture of lax oversight over the two indicted bid executives on trial for bribery.

After Salt Lake City lost the 1998 Winter Games to Nagano, Japan, Beardall, during an infrequent meeting of the audit panel, "expressed the concern of the Executive Committee that the 2002 Olympic bid campaign needs to be squeaky clean," according to minutes of that November 1991 meeting.

But Beardall, the former chief executive of retail chain Anderson Lumber, did nothing to advance that goal, failing even to look at the bid committee's general ledger, which showed all of the payments made to IOC delegates.

Instead, he testified Tuesday he relied on the outside auditors Ernst & Young, who relied on bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson for financial information. Ernst & Young issued a series of "clean" opinions, reporting "no knowledge of any irregularities." None of the auditors uncovered any of the $1 million in spending board members would later condemn as questionable, even though it was in plain view on the general ledger.

Justice Department fraud prosecutor Richard Wiedis is trying to show that Welch and Johnson hid or disguised their dealings with IOC members from their board. The two men are accused in a 15-count felony indictment of showing IOC members with $1 million in cash, gifts and favors.

Defense lawyers counter that board members knew or could have known about the lavish treatment for IOC members and that the bid executives broke no laws.

Wiedis also questioned Beardall about the bid campaign's use of broad budget categories that, for example, allowed IOC members to collect grants under an "assistance program" for foreign Olympic teams.

"Is there any category in the budget for political campaigns?" asked Wiedis, referring to $10,000 that Welch has acknowledged giving Sergio Santander, delegate from Chile, for his campaign for mayor of Pirque, near Santiago, Chile.

"No," said Beardall.

"Is there any category in the budget for paying IOC member's personal debts?" asked Wiedis, referring to the help Kenyan IOC member Charles Mukora received paying his mortgage. The defense tried to show that Mukora, who received $29,450 from the bid committee, ran a training camp at his home.

"No," said Beardall, who testified he understood the assistance program was for impoverished athletes in developing countries, not for IOC members.

When first asked about the series of payments, Welch explained that Congo delegate Jean-Claude Ganga, for one, was "like a sponge," always asking for money supposedly for athletes from his country, said Patricia Hanna, a University of Utah philosophy professor who testified Tuesday about her tenure on the organizing committee's ethics panel.

Ganga was described in the ethics report as "the IOC member who most took advantage of the bid committee's and the community's generosity," pocketing $320,000 in travel, medical and cash benefits, according to federal prosecutors.

Hanna said the panel interviewed Welch twice and that "he seemed very forthcoming and cooperative." Johnson also was interviewed twice, and each started by making his own statement.

Welch said he was approached twice by an associate for Santander, asking for a political donation. Mukora himself wrote letters to Welch pleading for help to prevent a bank from foreclosing on his house. And Welch told the ethics panel Ganga repeatedly asked for money for Congo's Olympic team.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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