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Cash, Trips Among Salt Lake Perks

February 10, 1999

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ IOC members and their families tapped into a golden spigot of cash, free vacations, cosmetic surgery and even a refrigerator when they befriended Salt Lake’s boosters.

Salt Lake’s bid committee doled out $23,000 in living expenses for one International Olympic Committee member’s 44-year-old daughter, who was divorced and in desperate straits. It moved her to Salt Lake and placed her in job after failed job.

When the son of another member was laid off by NBC Sports in New York, the bid committee arranged for a local satellite company hire him and used bid money to reimburse $45,000 of his salary.

And then there was the $10,000 two-week ski vacation in Park City, the stay at a pricey hotel in Paris, Utah Jazz tickets, a Colorado River trip, $1,488 worth of bathroom fixtures, and $673 for door knobs.

An ethics panel spent seven weeks scrutinizing 50,000 pages of documents and interviewing dozens of witnesses before issuing a 300-page report Tuesday.

Among the examples:

_ Jean-Claude Ganga, IOC member from the Republic of Congo, got $250,000 in cash, travel, hotels and meals when he and his wife, son and mother-in-law made a half-dozen trips to Salt Lake.

They loved to shop, and Mrs. Ganga in particular liked to buy rugs and draperies at Wal-Mart, tapping out a bid committee employee’s credit card. Another bid employee helped the Gangas plan decor for their new kitchen.

And there was free medical care for the Ganga entourage. Ganga was treated for hepatitis, his wife had cosmetic surgery and his mother-in-law had a knee replacement. The bid committee paid $17,172 of the medical expenses and Intermountain Health Care donated $28,000 worth, but the ethics panel said the bulk of the medical costs were donated by the doctors at the behest of top bid executive Tom Welch.

Ganga and Welch also were partners in an investment company called Claudet Investment, and Johnson said he often acted as a courier for Ganga, carrying envelopes of cash back from overseas trips for deposit in Ganga’s Salt Lake account.

_ The tab on a sampling of shopping trips and outings thrown by the bid committee amounted to $64,000.

Among the expenses were $1,010 for retrievers; $793 for an exercise machine; a $524 violin, a $3,395 family trip to New York; a $1,791 Las Vegas trip, and $1,702 for a tour on the Colorado River.

One department store told the panel it had given away $25,000 in free merchandise.

_ Welch arranged to pay $108,340 in tuition and living expenses for Sonia Essomba, the daughter of the late IOC member from Cameroon, Rene Essomba. He also acted as her attorney, drafting a letter to break an apartment lease and having his secretary fly to Washington to help move Ms. Essomba’s furniture to a new apartment.

Essomba himself got $60,000 in cash and the committee paid for his family to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris at $300 a night for 22 nights in 1994 and 1995. He died last summer.

_ Welch and bid vice president Dave Johnson drew up a phony contract between Great Basin Engineering of Ogden, Utah, and Bjarne Haeggman, ex-husband of Finnish IOC member Pirjo Haggeman, as cover for $33,750 in payments.

Bjarne Haeggman was to prepare a report on reforestation practices in Finland, although no such report was found in the bid committee’s files or at Great Basin Engineering. The company says it never hired Haeggman.

_ When Julie Wallwork, the wife of Western Samoa IOC member Siuli Paul Wallwork, sought $30,000 for a desperate friend, Welch took money from his own daughters’ trust account. Welch later embarrassingly had to ask for a loan repayment.

_ The families of IOC members Phillip Coles of Australia and Willi Kaltschmitt of Guatemala made four visits together to the United States, in one instance attending the Super Bowl in Miami, costing the committee $19,991.

_ IOC member Charles Mukora from Kenya even put his expectation for personal assistance in writing. In a January 1994 letter he expressed his hope that ``people who promised assistance will honor their pledges before it is too late.″

The ethics panel said Mukora ultimately got $29,450 funneled into his personal account. That came after a $5,000 payment to a sports group he worked with.

_Seven relatives and friends of IOC members traveled to Budapest, where the IOC voted to give Salt Lake the games, on the bid committee’s dime. The committee spent more than $27,000 for the seven.

While the ethics panel gave many examples of those with their hands out, it noted one instance in which bid executives tried to persuade the son of an IOC member to accept help finding a job at a Utah university.

Andrei Siperco, son of Alexandru Siperco of Romania, refused.

``It was clearly Dr. Siperco’s understanding that it would be inappropriate for a relative of an IOC member to trade on this relationship and accept money from a bid or organizing committee,″ the report said.

``That should have been the understanding of the bid committee’s management as well.″

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