Talk about a twist. A government witness in the Olympic bid scandal trial testified Monday that the son of a powerful International Olympic Committee member actually paid himself $40,000.
Salt Lake businessman David Simmons testified Monday that John Kim, the son of an IOC vice president from South Korea, was among the recipients of the bid's largess.
Simmons said he was talked into hiring Kim as New York City-based consultant by former bid leader Tom Welch.
Welch and Dave Johnson are on trial in federal court on fraud, conspiracy and racketeering charges in connection with the more than $1 million in cash and gifts lavished on IOC members during the successful campaign for the 2002 Winter Games.
Kim, now 43, needed a job in October 1990 because he was in the process of applying for a green card to obtain permanent residency. He is now under house arrest in Bulgaria awaiting extradition to the United States on charges related to the complicated arrangements.
Simmons also has been charged in connection with what the government has described as a "sham" job arranged for Kim. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax violation in August 1999 but has yet to be sentenced pending his cooperation with the government's case.
The bid committee promised to reimburse Kim's salary, which started at $50,000 and soon rose to $70,000 even though Simmons said Kim never produced any business for what was then Keystone Communications, a satellite broadcasting company.
But in April 1992, Simmons said he reached an agreement with Kim about paying a portion of his own salary through a consulting contract set up with a New Jersey company. The company, Komar International, was owned by Kim, Simmons said.
Under questioning by prosecutor Richard Wiedis, Simmons said there was never any intent that Kim would provide consulting services.
"The true purpose was a way for Mr. Kim to pay his salary," Simmons said, adding that Welch was aware of the deal.
Adding to the complexity, Simmons testified that Welch told him at one point to bill another East Coast company, Kobee Co., for Kim's services $20,000 for "professional video services rendered."
Simmons told the jury he'd never heard of the company but knew to send the bill there because "I'd been instructed by Mr. Welch. . . . This would be a way for him to reimburse Mr. Kim's salary."
Overall, Simmons said the bid committee ended up reimbursing a little more than $78,000 for Kim's salary. He said that Kim paid himself a total of $40,000 before his green card came through and he was terminated from the company in November 1992.
Welch described Kim's father, Un Yong Kim, as "someone quite important to Salt Lake's efforts to get the Olympic bid," Simmons said. "Mr. Welch made it clear to me at the time that they were certainly trying to do what they could to positively influence" him.
But how much Un Yong Kim knew about his son's dealings with the Salt Lake bid was not made clear Monday. Simmons testified that he spoke with Un Yong Kim, who is often referred to as "Dr. Kim," about it during a visit to Seoul.
"I began telling Dr. Kim about our arrangement with the bid committee," Simmons said. "Dr. Kim cut me off."
Defense attorneys did the same in court Monday, objecting to the line of questioning. Simmons said that he "was satisfied that Dr. Kim was aware of the arrangement."
There has been much speculation the government went after John Kim to get him to implicate his father in the case. Un Yong Kim received the "most serious of warnings" from the IOC for his role in the scandal, but this year he was elected a vice president by the IOC.
John Kim fled the United States shortly before he was charged in 1999 with lying to investigators and using a fraudulently obtained green card. He issued a statement from South Korea saying he knew nothing about the arrangement between Simmons and the bid.
Some six months ago, he was arrested in Bulgaria on an Interpol warrant. He was held in a Bulgarian prison until last week, when a court determined he could remain under house arrest while awaiting a hearing next month on his extradition.
John Kim is on the list of government witnesses expected to testify against Welch and Johnson. However, he has said in wire service interviews from his prison cell that the pair did nothing wrong and he did not intend to testify against them.
Simmons, a Harvard business school graduate who owns radio stations and outdoor signs in Utah, New Mexico, Texas and Idaho, faces up to one year in prison and as much as a $100,000 fine for filing a fraudulent tax return.
He was asked repeatedly by Welch's attorney, Bill Taylor, about his deal with the government including whether he had lied in his meetings with the FBI and other investigators when he told them he didn't recall some of the companies involved.Comment on this story
"I didn't mean to lie to the government," Simmons said, describing how he was questioned before he had a chance to review documents. Asked if he was told he'd be prosecuted for lying, Simmons said he didn't recall but "it was a pretty tough interview."
He is the third witness in the government's case, following bid finance director Rod Hamson, who finished his testimony Monday. Hamson was accused of double-billing the bid some $51,000 by the defense, an allegation he has denied.
Simmons will return to the stand today.