[CP-List] Hatch escaped Olympics inquiry

DavidOrr@aol.com DavidOrr@aol.com
Mon, 22 Apr 2002 00:48:53 EDT


Games Inquiry Skirted Hatch
    Sunday, April 21, 2002
    
BY GREG BURTON
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE 

   Of all the leads federal investigators pursued during their extensive 
probe of Salt Lake City's Olympic bid scandal, they were utterly stumped 
on only one: gaining access to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. 
    It wasn't for a lack of effort. 
    After poring through hundreds of thousands of documents, delivering 
subpoenas across the country and questioning some 400 witnesses, agents 
with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were convinced Hatch could 
provide valuable information about Utah's courtship of the Winter Games. 
    So, in late 1999, the FBI asked prosecutors at the U.S. Department of 
Justice for permission to speak with Hatch, who was then chairman of the 
Senate Judiciary Committee. The request was denied, The Salt Lake Tribune 
has learned. 
    Less than a year later, in early 2000, the FBI again asked federal 
prosecutors for authorization to interview the five-term senator, who was 
then campaigning for the presidency. They were rebuffed a second time. 
    It wasn't as if federal agents were on a fishing expedition with 
Hatch. They had assembled a long paper trail of e-mails, Olympic 
committee documents and personal letters from Hatch before approaching 
Justice officials in Washington, D.C. 
    In the end, internal disagreements between investigators in Salt Lake 
City and prosecutors in Washington steered the case away from a man that 
many have believed for years is positioning himself for a seat on the 
U.S. Supreme Court. 
    Justice Department officials declined to comment on this story, 
including whether they had twice blocked the FBI's attempt to interview 
Hatch, who professes ignorance of the matter. 
    "I don't know anything about it," Hatch told The Tribune in a 
statement released through an aide. "I have never heard that before. 
    "I would have been happy to talk to them but it's a surprise to me 
that they even wanted to," said Hatch, who became the ranking Republican 
on the Judiciary Committee when Democrats assumed control of the Senate 
in May. 
    Nearly two years have passed since a grand jury returned a 15-count 
bribery, fraud and racketeering indictment against bid leaders Tom Welch 
and Dave Johnson, alleging they deceived Olympic bid committee trustees 
by funneling more than $1 million in gifts, trips, medical treatment and 
scholarships to members of the IOC. 
    Last year, when U.S. District Judge David Sam dismissed the 
indictments, a chorus of politicians, Olympic boosters and community 
leaders, including Hatch, applauded the apparent end of the three-year 
ordeal. 
    The Justice Department has asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of 
Appeals to overturn Sam's decision. The court has yet to schedule 
arguments. 
    If a trial ever takes place, Hatch likely would be forced to explain 
his contacts with Welch and Johnson and his lobbying of the Immigration 
and Naturalization Service (INS) on behalf of members of the IOC. 
    While the FBI has no evidence Hatch was involved in criminal 
wrongdoing, agents believe Utah's senior senator knows more than what can 
easily be culled from the numerous Olympic documents on which his name 
appears. 
    As early as 1991, Hatch was acting as a middleman of sorts between 
Salt Lake bid leaders and IOC members wanting assistance for their 
children's immigration, employment and education. 
    Hatch says he provided the kind of constituent assistance that is 
commonplace in Congress. Other documents cast Hatch's role in a more 
mysterious light. 
    Of particular interest is a note Johnson, the former vice president 
of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, sent in July 1999 to Alfredo 
LaMont, ex-director of international relations for the U.S. Olympic 
Committee. 
    "Senator Hatch told someone at a fund-raiser that nothing more would 
happen," Johnson wrote in an e-mail obtained by the FBI. "Articles here 
in the paper talk about further review by Justice and political types. 
With direction as to [where] further investigating should take place." 
    As Johnson wrote, federal investigators were zeroing in on Johnson, 
former bid president Welch and LaMont for allegedly concocting a web of 
money transfers from the bid committee to bank accounts controlled by 
LaMont. Johnson ends the note by telling LaMont that, "You and I still 
cannot go forward. Hang in there." 
    A copy of Johnson's e-mail was shown to The Tribune. Johnson's 
attorney, Max Wheeler of Salt Lake City, has seen it but would not 
comment on its meaning or relevance. 
    Johnson and Welch were indicted in July 2000. Four months earlier, 
LaMont pleaded guilty to two federal counts of tax fraud related to a 
consulting contract with Welch. 
    Hatch figures prominently in other letters, memos and notes amassed 
by Salt Lake's Olympic bid and organizing committees. 
    Hatch's handwritten "Hang in There!" appears at the bottom of a 
letter Hatch wrote to Welch and Welch's wife, Alma, in June 1991, after 
Salt Lake lost the bid for the 1998 Winter Games to Nagano, Japan. 
    "Had it not been for the prejudice and corruption in the system, we 
would have been bid-winners," Hatch wrote. "You have my greatest respect 
and friendship." 
    In November 1991, in a bid committee memorandum titled "Needs From 
Washington, D.C.," Salt Lake boosters contemplated ways to secure visas, 
green cards and financial assistance for members of the IOC and their 
families. There is a handwritten notation on the memo: "Hatch role?" 
    Two months later, Hatch wrote a letter to INS Director James Bailey 
asking that he give an "expeditious and thorough review" to an 
application for a "temporary trainee" visa for Bold Magvan, the son of 
Mongolian IOC member Shagdarjav Magvan. 
    The IOC ultimately issued the elder Magvan a serious warning for his 
son's acceptance of financial assistance for college and a bank job in 
Utah, which Hatch helped arrange. 
    Attorney Wheeler, for one, wonders why the Justice Department 
completely avoided Hatch even though the senator was more deeply involved 
in Salt Lake's bid, and involved earlier, than other Utah politicians. 
Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt took office in 1993, almost four years after Hatch 
was named honorary co-chairman of Salt Lake's international fund-raising 
committee for the Games. The FBI received approval to question Leavitt, 
and did, while such access to Hatch was denied. 
    "Sen. Hatch's office was involved in getting green cards for these 
students and assisted in getting one of them enrolled in college," 
Wheeler said. "It seems like reason enough to talk with him." 
    In 1993, 1994 and 1995, Hatch helped Moriba Keita, the son of Mali 
IOC member Lamine Keita, gain admittance to Howard University in 
Washington, D.C., where Hatch was a trustee. In January 1995, Hatch met 
in his Washington office with Johnson and Lamine Keita, who later was 
expelled from the IOC because of the more than $97,000 Salt Lake Olympic 
officials paid for his son's education. 
    It is possible Hatch could provide testimony disproving government 
claims that Welch and Johnson and a few others knew about the financial 
and political favoritism shown to members of the IOC. Or Hatch could 
testify he was duped by Welch and Johnson into providing extraordinary 
assistance for the children of IOC members. 
    Either way, Wheeler said that by failing to question Hatch and other 
key officials, federal prosecutors tailored a case designed to indict his 
client and Welch while saving the Justice Department from straying into a 
political minefield. 
    "The government failed to interview a lot of people that we believe 
had exculpatory evidence for the defense," Wheeler said. "There were even 
people who were interviewed that were never called to the grand jury who 
had information that was exculpatory to the defense. We believe that was 
an improper manipulation of the grand jury." 
    Last November, when Sam threw out the case against Johnson and Welch, 
more than a few observers suggested Sam intervened to protect Hatch, a 
friend who first met Sam in 1954 when both were young men training in 
Salt Lake City for Mormon missionary assignments. Decades later, Hatch 
engineered Sam's appointment to the federal bench. 
    Former Hatch spokesman Chris Rosche, who now works at the Pentagon, 
suggests that within the Justice Department, there was as much pressure 
to embarrass Hatch as to protect him. 
    In 1999, Hatch nemesis Janet Reno ran the Justice Department as 
attorney general. Rosche said Reno never would have deflected an 
investigation that involved Hatch. 
    "You've got to imagine this is the Clinton administration, Janet 
Reno's Justice Department -- everybody knows he was not a supporter of 
the Janet Reno Justice Department," Rosche said. "We're left wondering 
why would a Democrat like Janet Reno do any favors for a conservative 
Republican like Orrin Hatch." 
    Rosche points out that current Attorney General John Ashcroft, a 
conservative Republican supported by Hatch, allowed the Justice 
Department to appeal Sam's ruling and keep alive the potential for a 
Hatch appearance in a federal courtroom. 
    Before his appointment to the Bush Cabinet last year, Ashcroft was a 
Missouri senator who sat on Hatch's Judiciary Committee. 
    Lee Foreman, attorney for former USOC official LaMont, believes there 
is a simple explanation for the Justice Department's hands-off treatment 
of Hatch -- fear of alienating Utah's power elite, including the federal 
judiciary. Hatch played a significant role in the appointments of not 
only Sam, but Utah federal judges Ted Stewart, Dale A. Kimball, Tena 
Campbell and Chief U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. 
    "Prosecutors think they got home-towned a little bit, sure," Foreman 
says. "I don't know if it was some kind of improper pressure being put on 
by the politicos, but it is a close-knit community." 
    Hatch's name already has emerged in two related Olympic scandal 
cases. 
    In September 1999, grand juries in New York and Salt Lake indicted 
the son of South Korean IOC member Un Yong Kim for entering the country 
on a fraudulently obtained resident visa, or green card. Prosecutors 
contend Jung Hoon "John" Kim obtained the visa after he and Welch 
fabricated a sham job for the younger Kim. 
    David Simmons, chief executive of Utah-based media company Keystone 
Communications, pleaded guilty in August 1999 to a misdemeanor charge of 
filing a false tax return that fraudulently accounted for payments to 
Kim. 
    Attorneys for John Kim claim Welch told Kim that a green card had 
been assured by Hatch. In a prepared statement after Kim's indictment, 
Hatch said: "I am informed that representatives of the Salt Lake Olympic 
[bid] committee did request information from my staff about immigration 
procedures. In response to that inquiry, my office furnished the 
information as we routinely do with all constituent requests for 
assistance with immigration problems." 
    Kim fled the United States before the FBI could detain him. 


    gburton@sltrib.com