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Ambassador to Mauritius Reportedly Heading Back to Utah

Ambassador to Mauritius Reportedly Heading Back to Utah



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- U.S. Ambassador John Price reportedly has left his East African post to return to Utah, where he was a developer and Republican Party money man.

The State Department confirmed Price left as ambassador June 13 but referred all questions to Price, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, The Salt Lake Tribune said Wednesday.

As of Tuesday night, the State Department still listed Price as an ambassador.

A department spokesman told the newspaper's Washington bureau that he doubted there was a resignation letter from Price, but if there were one, it would be deemed private "internal correspondence."

It was unclear why Price left his post, but he was quoted in a local newspaper, L'Express, saying goodbye. "I arrived as a businessman and I leave as a diplomat," according to a translation of the French language newspaper article.

Price faced tough criticism after his appointment in February 2002 as ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, all off the coast of Africa.

At one point, one paper called for his resignation after he skipped the swearing-in ceremony for the president of Mauritius and left early from a ceremony celebrating Muhammad's birthday,

An editorial in Le Mauricien, the country's largest newspaper, took Price to task for essentially buying an ambassadorship through campaign contributions and also for adverse court rulings on his business dealings.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear an appeal of a Salt Lake City jury's $9 million judgment against Price.

Price and his Fairfax Realty were found to have tricked a New Mexico couple out of about $1 million in a project to build a mall in Clovis, N.M. A jury in 2001 awarded Armand and Virginia Smith of Clovis $6.5 million in damages plus interest and attorneys fees that have brought the total to more than $8.7 million.

The company also lost an appeal before the Utah Supreme Court, which said the punitive damages were warranted because of Price's relative wealth, valued at $37 million, and because Price's deliberate false statements constituted trickery and deceit.

Price was named ambassador by President George W. Bush after Price's original trial.

Price handled the first Bush campaign's finances in the state and contributed $471,550 of his own money to the 2000 campaign.

Just this week, the Center for Responsive Politics released a report showing how much money ambassadors donated politically between 1999 and 2004. It listed 43 heavy donors it said were rewarded with ambassadorships and they included two from Utah: Price and Tom Korologos.

Price and his family gave the second most money to Bush out of the list, $120,000 and the fifth most to Republicans overall with more than $585,000.

Korologos, an ambassador to Belgium, gave the 41st most to Bush on the list, $1,000, and the 21st most to Republicans overall. He and his family were listed as giving $107,800 to the GOP and Bush since 1999.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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