Feds Probe Olympic Gun Transfers
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Federal investigators have interviewed the maker of a pistol reportedly given to International Olympic Committee president Juan Antionio Samaranch by Salt Lake Olympic organizers.
The decoratively engraved 9 mm high-power pistol made by Browning Arms Co. of Mountain Green, Utah, now sits in the IOC museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The pistol was sold to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee in 1991, according to Rich Bauter, Browning’s vice president of marketing.
``There’s at least one gun that I’m aware of that we delivered to a member of SLOC in Salt Lake that ended up (in Europe),″ Bauter said Wednesday. ``I think maybe others did too.″
He said he has no way of knowing who got the gun. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday it was given to Samaranch.
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee’s ethics investigation into the scandal surrounding the 2002 Winter Games found that Samaranch received a limited edition pistol donated by Browning.
Bauter said the guns weren’t donated, but as many as 10 were sold at cost to SLOC ``because we wanted to help bring the Olympics to Utah.″
Whether Samaranch _ or someone else _ packed the pistol back to Lausanne or it was shipped by SLOC officials remains unclear. Either way, the transfer may have violated federal weapons laws.
The U.S. State Department is required to approve shipments of weapons leaving the country. Violators could be charged under federal law with felony exportation of a firearm without a permit, ATF spokesman Larry Bettendorf told The Tribune.
Other federal laws restrict non-U.S. citizens from possessing firearms without a permit and prohibit unlicensed dealers from exporting firearms from the country.
In Lausanne, IOC spokesman Franklin Servan-Schreiber said, ``We are not aware that this an issue,″ and declined further comment.
Shelley Thomas, SLOC’s vice president of communications, said she ``has no clue″ how the guns got to Europe.
``The bid committee, being a separate entity, and with the Department of Justice investigating, we have no access to any of those kinds of records,″ she said Wednesday.
Thomas said SLOC lawyers have not been contacted by investigators regarding the shipments.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Steel refused to discuss the case, saying only that the department ``continues investigating allegations of impropriety in connection with the Salt Lake City bid.″
Mike Bukovac, agent in charge of the Salt Lake City office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, confirmed that ``we have done some interviews″ regarding the guns.
The ATF is among the federal agencies participating in the Justice Department’s investigation of lavish treatment, gifts, and cash payments given to IOC officials during Salt Lake’s Olympic bid.
Bauter said federal agents touched on the gun shipments during an interview with Browning officials earlier this year, but the meeting dealt mostly with the guns sold to SLOC over a period dating back to Salt Lake City’s first Olympic bid.
He said Browning arranged to have a distributor in Europe ship two guns to Samaranch’s office. Other Browning guns were given to the King of Norway and a Norwegian Olympic official, according to the SLOC ethics report. Russia’s Vitaly Smirnov, a former IOC vice president, also reportedly received a rifle.
A Russian IOC spokesman has said that Smirnov declined a Browning hunting rifle, but hosts packed it in his luggage anyway. Customs agents in Atlanta found the gun and he left it behind. Two years later it was delivered to Moscow by Salt Lake City organizers and Smirnov turned it over to a sports facility in Krasnodar, Russia, the spokesman said.
The IOC has acknowledged Samaranch was given a pistol and rifle, and Samaranch has said he received guns on two visits to Salt Lake City.
The Tribune reported that Browning has an invoice for a $395.86 pistol sold to the committee in February 1991, two months before Samaranch’s first visit to Utah, at which time he received a pistol during a dinner at the home of businessman Jon Huntsman.
The pistol on the invoice is now in the IOC museum in Lausanne.