More Questions Raised About Olympic Bid Accounting

More Questions Raised About Olympic Bid Accounting

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John Daley ReportingIn the Olympic bribery case serious questions were raised today about the accounting practices of the Salt Lake bid committee. On the stand was the committee's former Finance Director, Rod Hamson, who served under then Olympic leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson.

The key question that was raised today goes to the heart of this case. Were the bid committee's auditors deceived by Welch and Johnson, or were they aware that hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to go help athletic programs in underprivileged countries were in fact going directly to IOC members?

For many around the globe the Olympics have magical reputation. But something quite the opposite is unfolding in court as the veil is being lifted about how Utah won the Games.

Under questioning from federal prosecutor Richard Wiedis, Rod Hamson gave a full picture of the National Olympic Committee program directed by Johnson. Intended to help "athletes" or "outstanding individuals", the money instead goes to IOC members and their relatives or friends.

Hamson testified about documents regarding consultants hired to advise the bid committee. It appears their primary job is that of a middle man or agent essentially directing payments to the very people who vote to award the Games, the specific IOC members in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, and of course getting paid themselves for the trouble.

Hamson testified that Welch changes an audit document description about the NOC program mentioning "individuals participating in the NOC program" to simply "programs” apparently to avoid giving away the fact IOC members were getting money.

Hamson also testified that 130-thousand in cash given to Welch and Johnson was never reflected under contributions in the committee's 1994 tax returns. If it had, it would have been the third largest single contribution that year. Prosecutors have hinted the pair pocketed the money, but defense attorneys say they can explain what happened to it.

With jurors having already heard nearly 15 hours of Hamson's testimony, prosecutors began raising red flags about the bid committee's auditors. One field auditor working for the outside firm reviewing the bid committee's books--Ernst and Young--later goes to work for the organizing committee, even taking over Hamson's old job.

The emotional exclamation point came when Hamson was asked by the audit committee if after the big win he knew, as Finance Director, of the deep problems in the books and why he never revealed them.

Crying, Hamson said, "Because I had rationalized about everything that had gone on. We'd just won. It was a great event. It was going to be a great event."

Rod Hamson will be back on the stand next Wednesday after the Veteran's Day holiday. Defense attorneys gave jurors something to think about over the weekend by raising questions about the accuracy of Hamson's testimony and about the role of other key players in the alleged bribery scheme.

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