Immunity for Welch's Olympic Testimony Unlikely


Salt Lake City, UT September 23 (AP by Paul Foy)--Tom Welch, leader of Salt Lake City's successful bid to win the 2002 Winter Games and the target of the Justice Department's investigation into $1.2 million in gift-giving, is trying to get the feds to divert their aim a bit.

To that end, he's floating the notion that he would testify against international Olympic Committee members in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

It's not likely.

A source close to Welch, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday that the former head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee would consider trading his testimony for immunity.

A Justice Department source, also speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity, said department officials have no intention of giving immunity to Welch, who is considered the chief target of a federal grand jury probe.

Welch and his lawyer, Tom Schaffer, have not pitched their immunity notion to the Justice Department, nor have they been contacted by federal prosecutors or the FBI during the 10-month investigation.

Schaffer was traveling and did not return phone messages relayed by his secretary.

Welch was prepared to give Richard Wiedis, the Justice Department lawyer leading the Olympic investigation, information he gave an ethics panel for the SLOC.

That panel detailed $1.2 million in gifts and favors Welch and others lavished on voting members of the IOC and their relatives.

Welch has insisted the inducements were normal for Olympic bidding and were not criminal.

Welch figures in charges already filed against two others,

He is the unidentified Salt Lake City bid committee officer in an indictment handed down earlier this month against the son of IOC executive board member Kim Un-yong.

John Kim was indicted on 17 felony charges of fraudulently obtaining a permanent U.S. visa or green card and using it to travel frequently to the United States. Kim, who returned to South Korea before he was indicted, keeps a house on New York's Long Island.

Salt Lake City businessman David Simmons said he set up a phony job in New York for Kim, using money funneled from the bid committee. Simmons pleaded guilty in August to tax fraud for claiming Kim's salary as a business expense.

Simmons said he hired Kim as a favor to Welch, then the president of the bid committee and later the SLOC until he was forced to resign in 1997 amid spouse-abuse charges. Welch's name is on some of the checks to Simmons' former company, Keystone Communications, for Kim's salary.

Kim contends he did real work for his pay.

If federal prosecutors did agree to a deal, Welch could give them information on such things as the cash payments he arranged to Alfredo La Mont, an Olympic consultant in Colorado Springs, Colo., who passed on some of the money to Austin Healy, an IOC member from the Barbados.

Those revelations forced La Mont to resign as director of international relations for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In all, Welch sent $18,185 to La Mont's company, ARCA, in six documented transactions prosecutors could cite for money laundering or wire fraud charges.

Also of possible interest to federal investigators might be a Salt Lake City bank account that Welch shared with Jean-Claude Ganga, an ousted IOC member from the Republic of Congo.

He also could detail $400,000 paid by the bid committee to fund 13 college scholarships, six of them to relatives of IOC members.