Court Orders Korean National Extradited to U.S. in Olympic Scandal Case

Court Orders Korean National Extradited to U.S. in Olympic Scandal Case


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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -- A Bulgarian court on Friday ordered the extradition to the United States of a Korean national wanted on charges related to the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal.

The Korean, John Kim, faces charges of fraud and document forgery allegedly committed between 1995-99 in New York. He is the son of Kim Un-yong, a South Korean IOC member reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee in 2000 for his involvement in the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.

Kim is accused of lying to FBI investigators and using a fraudulently obtained green card for a "sham" job that a telecommunications executive testified was arranged by Salt Lake's bid leaders.

He was one of three minor players indicted in the tainted bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Kim, who was living in New York, fled to South Korea before a U.S. court charged him in September 1999 and never returned.

Kim has always said he is innocent of the charges.

He was arrested on an Interpol warrant in May by Bulgarian police was he arrived from Paris at the invitation of the Bulgarian Olympic Committee, Ivan Slavkov.

On Friday, Sofia City Court Judge Daniela Rosenova granted the U.S. request to extradite him, but did not immediately spell out her motives. She also rejected a request by Kim to be released from custody.

The Bulgarian Olympic Committee has repeatedly urged Kim's release from custody, invoking his poor health. Kim, 42, has been suffering from depression and high blood pressure, his lawyers have said previously.

Kim declined to comment after the Friday hearing, but his lawyers, Kamen Sitnislki and Radian Gichev, said they would appeal the decision.

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

He said a 1924 legal assistance accord with the United States, on which the court based its decision, was annulled by a 1951 Bulgarian law which revoked all previous legislation.

"Even if this accord were in force, Kim's extradition would be nonetheless illegal as what he is charged with in the United States, is not a crime in Bulgaria," Gichev said.

Kim's father received a "most serious" warning in 1999 after an internal inquiry into the cash, scholarships and other inducements offered to IOC members by Salt Lake City bidders. The scandal forced the expulsion or resignation of 10 IOC members.

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

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