[CP-List] Hatch escaped Olympics inquiry
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
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
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
The Justice Department has asked the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals to overturn Sam's decision. The court has yet to schedule
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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.