Samaranch confident of avoiding FBI questioning

International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch is confident that he will not be grilled by FBI investigators when he travels to Washington next week to testify before Congress about the organization's reform efforts.

International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch is confident that he will not be grilled by FBI investigators when he travels to Washington next week to testify before Congress about the organization's reform efforts.

Samaranch has apparently received assurances that, for the time being, he will not be questioned or served with a subpoena in the Justice Department's investigation of the Salt ake City bribery scandal.

"If he's going to Washington, that means he's confident there is no problem - at this stage," IOC director general Francois Carrard said today, declining to give further details.

Samaranch, who is due to appear in Congress next Wednesday, said earlier this week that he doesn't expect to be approached by the FBI now.

"If the FBI wants to meet with me, I am ready, but not on this occasion," he said, adding that he has to travel to Spain for a meeting the day after the Congressional hearing.

Samaranch will appear before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The panel, chaired by Michigan Republican Fred Upton, wants to hear from Samaranch about the corruption scandal that has rocked the Olympic movement.

Samaranch declined requests to testify before Congress earlier this year. He agreed to go to Washington only after this weekend's IOC general assembly, where members will vote on a package of reforms designed to restructure the IOC and prevent any further abuses.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is still investigating the more than $1.2 million in cash, gifts, scholarships and other inducements offered to IOC members and their families during Salt Lake's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Carrard said a handful of IOC members have already been "interviewed" by FBI agents in connection with the probe.

"The IOC has always said it will cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation," he said. "Some members have been interviewed and things are going smoothly."

But others are concerned that they, too, will face questioning if they enter the United States.

"Some individual members have expressed questions about the process," Carrard said. "They don't know what a subpoena is. They have to look it up in the dictionary. They think it's something out of a 'B' movie. They imagine 'The Untouchables' coming with subpoenas and machine guns."

In June, during the IOC session in Seoul, South Korea, the IOC advised its members they could face questioning or subpoenas and offered to provide legal assistance to any delegates traveling to the United States.

Asked then whether he was worried about being questioned himself, Samaranch said: "No. If I am interviewed, there will be an interview. It is no problem for me."

The Justice Department investigation has led to charges against two people so far.

Utah businessman David Simmons pleaded guilty Aug. 3 to a federal misdemeanor tax charge. He said he helped create a sham job for John Kim, son of powerful South Korean IOC executive board member Kim Un-Yong, with the understanding that the Salt Lake bid committee would pay the son's salary and then deduct the salary from his taxes.

John Kim was indicted in September on federal charges that he lied to investigators and entered the United States with a fraudulently obtained green card.

John Kim has denied any wrongdoing and said he was unaware of the salary arrangements between Salt Lake and Simmons' company, Keystone Communications. Kim's father has said any deal between Simmons and the bid committee was kept secret from his family.

Last March, the IOC gave the elder Kim a "severe warning" for his conduct but stopped short of expelling him.

Asked Wednesday whether Kim's status was under review as a result of his son's indictment, Carrard said, "There are no new facts as far as we are concerned. It would be a matter for the (IOC) ethics commission."

With the FBI investigation still ongoing, the IOC is considering calling off scheduled executive board meetings in February in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Salt Lake City.

Samaranch said the meetings could be switched to Sydney, Australia, which will stage the 2000 Summer Games next September.

While an announcement had been expected this week, Carrard said the executive board would wait until early January to make a final decision.

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