Key evidence surfaces in Olympic bribery scandal

Files at the Salt Lake Organizing Committee yielded more evidence Wednesday of efforts Olympic bid executives made to influence International Olympic Committee members to award Salt Lake the 2002 Winter Games.

A consultant's notes, headlined "What is needed for" three members of the International Olympic Committee, figure in the bribery indictment of bid chief Tom Welch and deputy Dave Johnson.

The notes, obtained by The Associated Press, are evidence federal prosecutors will use to argue Welch and Johnson tried to identify which IOC members' votes could be bought.

They also suggest a favour Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt could do for an exiled Tunisian prime minister. Leavitt's chief lawyer said Wednesday that he never received the request.

The consultant, Mahmoud Elfarnawani who was born in Egypt but has Canadian citizenship, scribbled a two-page memo on hotel stationary during the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games, when Salt Lake was furiously lobbying to win its own games.

Elfarnawani suggested Salt Lake bidders invite to the United States sons or grandsons of IOC members Mohamed Zerguini of Algeria and Bashir Attarabulsi of Libya.

Zerguini received a "serious warning" from the IOC last year after a Salt Lake ethics panel reported the bid committee paid $14,500 in cash to one of his grandsons, Raouf Scally, for no apparent reason.

One of Attarabulsi's sons, Suhel, received $60,000 in expenses and pocket money to attend two Utah schools, an English language centre at Brigham Young University and a community college.

Attarabulsi, who resigned in the wake of the scandal, received free medical services in Utah on one visit and was accompanied by family members on trips to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. In all, his family cost the bid committee $91,000, according to federal prosecutors.

Elfarnawani began his notes with a suggested favour for former Tunisia Prime Minister Mohamed Mzali, also an IOC member: "a letter from the governor" stating Leavitt is "deeply touched" by Mzali's plight and admires his "courage & patience." Leavitt also was to "voice his opinion to Washington."

Mzali, removed from power by a 1986 coup, remained an IOC member for Tunisia and has not been implicated in the scandal.

"He had to walk across a desert to get out," Welch said Wednesday. "He lives in Paris in exile, and I think there might have been a problem getting his wife out of the country."

Mzali would have wanted Leavitt to lobby Washington because Tunisia "was taken over by dictators," said Welch, who didn't know if Leavitt took up the cause.

He did not, and Leavitt wasn't questioned on the subject by federal agents during an interview last March, his lawyer Gary Doxey said Wednesday through a spokeswomen. "We have no record of hearing anything about this," Vicki Varela said.

Elfarnawani, a consultant who once boasted he "assured" the Arab vote for Salt Lake, began working for Salt Lake in late 1992 and was paid $148,260 until 1996.

He was interviewed by FBI and Justice Department investigators in July 1999, said David M. Goodman, his Toronto lawyer. Goodman was not certain if Elfarnawani would be called as a trial witness, but said a heart condition usually keeps him from travelling. Elfarnawani did not return two calls Wednesday at his consulting business, Trade & Sports Canada Inc.

Elfarnawani was among several consultants hired by Welch and Johnson to provide personal information on IOC members. The indictment also mentions the so-called geld document, though not by name, saying Welch and Johnson prepared their own list of IOC members whose votes could be bought with "personal benefits."

Elfarnawani's list was characterized in the indictment as one act of an alleged conspiracy to bribe the IOC. It says Welch and Johnson hired a Canadian consultant to draw up a list of "specific personal benefits" that members would accept in exchange for their votes.

The charges also say Elfarnawani gave Salt Lake bidders a bank account number for a son of Gen. Zein Gadir of Sudan, who was expelled by the IOC for taking more than $20,000 in cash and scholarships from Salt Lake.

By Paul Foy