Olympic Bid Aides Favored Libyan
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Olympic bid officials ``did everything in our power″ to obtain U.S. travel visas for a Libyan IOC member’s sons, according to internal documents obtained from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.
The bid leaders pressured the State Department and ``our own political leaders″ to admit the sons of Bashir Attarabulsi. One son, Sami Attarabulsi, was rejected because he was a member of the Libyan military, which was considered hostile by the United States.
The other son, Suhel Attarabulsi, got a visa after considerable diplomatic effort in 1994. He received $60,000 from the bid committee to attend Utah schools.
The latest batch of documents released by Salt Lake organizers shows that Tom Welch and Dave Johnson ran the bid committee like a travel agency for International Olympic Committee delegates.
Welch and Johnson await trial on federal charges of leading a decade-long bribery conspiracy.
The Associated Press obtained 30 pages of memos, letters, faxes and teletypes traded between the bid executives or their secretaries and Mahmoud Elfarnawani, an Olympic consultant who once boasted he ``assured″ the Arab vote in 1995 for the Salt Lake Games. Elfarnawani was paid $148,260 for his efforts.
Elfarnawani, an Egyptian-born Canadian citizen, didn’t return a call Tuesday from Toronto, where he operates a sports consulting agency.
Welch wasn’t always free spending. He had to restrain Elfarnawani in November 1995 _ after Salt Lake won the 2002 Winter Games _ when the consultant was arranging a second U.S. visit for IOC member Mohamed Zerguini of Algeria and his family.
Welch offered to pay $5,700 in first-class airfare for Zerguini and a son, Yacine, to fly from Algeria to France to London to San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Atlanta to Washington, D.C., finally returning roundabout to Algeria. Yacine Zerguini wanted to attend a medical conference in Atlanta.
But Welch wouldn’t pay for Yacine’s wife or a second Zerguini brother, Yak, who had already visited the United States, leaving Welch feeling he had ``fulfilled one of his obligations″ to the Zerguini family, Welch aide Jason Gull wrote to Elfarnawani.
Zerguini was reprimanded by the IOC, but not because of his travels. It turned out Salt Lake had doled out $500 a month for 29 months to a supposed Zerguini relative, Raouf Scally, for no reason that Welch or Johnson could explain to an ethics panel. Scally took $14,500 in all.
Libya’s Attarabulsi avoided IOC censure by resigning in the wake of the bribery scandal. He had 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 a federal indictment.
In April 1994, Welch secretary Stephanie Pate faxed a memo to Elfarnawani reviewing efforts to get U.S. visas for Attarabulsi’s two sons.
``We have done everything in our power with the State Department and our own political leaders to obtain (the) visas,″ wrote Pate, who explained that Libyans were the subject of extra scrutiny. There was no guarantee either brother would be admitted, she noted.
But Pate wrote urgently for Suhel Attarabulsi’s application papers for the University of Utah. He received the visa and a bid committee scholarship. Pate suggested Sami Attarabulsi wait before visiting until he completed his military service in Libya.
Bid leaders tried to arrange for Sami Attarabulsi to learn how to install home TV satellites.