Judge Orders Extradition for Olympic Bribery Defendant

Judge Orders Extradition for Olympic Bribery Defendant

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- John Kim, the son of a powerful international Olympic official, was ordered extradited Friday from Bulgaria to the United States on charges related to the Salt Lake City bid scandal.

His lawyers plan to appeal, a process that makes it unclear when Kim might be returned.

The South Korean was one of three minor players indicted in the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The main case, against Salt Lake bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson, is scheduled to go to trial in federal court here starting Oct. 28.

Kim faces his own proceedings for taking a "sham" job allegedly arranged by Welch, who has denied doing anything improper helping Kim find employment. Kim was indicted for fraudulently obtaining a U.S. green card and lying to the FBI.

Kim, 42, disputes the government charges.

He was arrested by Bulgarian police on an Interpol warrant and has been in Bulgarian jail since last May.

Daniela Rosenova, a City Court judge in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Friday granted the United States request to extradite Kim, but an appeal could delay proceedings.

Kim eventually could be sent to New York, where he was indicted for immigration fraud, or Salt Lake City, where another grand jury indicted him for lying to FBI investigators.

"I can't imagine he's a happy camper right now," Johnson's chief defense lawyer, Max Wheeler, said Friday.

Federal prosecutors could subpoena Kim for the trial against Welch and Johnson, but Wheeler said Kim couldn't provide any damaging testimony. "It's not going to hurt us," he said.

Prosecutors are expected to call Utah telecommunications executive David Simmons, who pleaded guilty to tax fraud in August 1999 in the scandal's first criminal conviction. Simmons testified he was reimbursed by the Salt Lake bid committee for Kim's salary in a "sham" job the government says was intended to gain Kim permanent U.S. residence.

Justice Department trial attorneys John Scott and Richard Wiedis, who are in Salt Lake City preparing for Welch and Johnson's trial, refused comment Friday.

John Kim and his father, IOC Vice President Kim Un-yong, have maintained the younger Kim did honest consulting work in 1991 and 1992 for Simmons, trying to arrange cable television deals with the heads of South Korea's major television networks. Kim failed to generate any business for Simmons, federal documents say.

Kim Un-yong received a "most serious" warning in 1999 after an International Olympic Committee inquiry into the $1 million in cash, scholarships and other inducements Welch and Johnson are accused of giving IOC members. The scandal led to the expulsion or resignation of 10 IOC members.

The Bulgarian Olympic Committee has urged John Kim's release from custody, invoking his poor health. Kim's lawyers say he has been suffering from depression and high blood pressure.

Kim declined to comment after the Friday hearing but his lawyers, Kamen Sitnilski and Radian Gichev, said they would appeal the order. Sitnilski said the extradition was based on a 1924 legal assistance accord with the United States that he said was annulled by a 1951 Bulgarian law.

"We consider this ruling illegal and baseless," Sitnilski told The Associated Press.

Gichev said that even if the 1924 treaty was still valid, Kim's extradition would be illegal because the U.S. charges against him aren't recognized as a crime in Bulgaria.

Associated Press Writer Veselin Zhelev in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this report.

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

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