SALT LAKE CITY — One day after being indicted for allegedly carrying out an enormous cash-for-votes camapign to lure the 2002 Winter Games to Utah, a former Olympic official denied any wrongdoing and said he was only carrying out the task of bringing the games to Utah.

‘I did not do anything illegal. Our efforts to win the Winter Games were consistent with the goals and mission of the bid committee,’ David Johnson told reporters on Friday night.

‘We operated in a culture others created,’ he said in his first public appearance since being indicted.

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury here returned a 15-count indictment against two former Salt Lake City bid committee leaders, Tom Welch, 55, and Johnson, 41.

According to the indictment, the two paid $1 million of Olympic organising funds to influence the votes of more than a dozen International Olympic Committee members and ‘personally diverted $130,000’ of bid funds.

‘I didn’t bribe anyone. I didn’t defraud anyone,’ Johnson said, reading a statement as he stood across the street from the federal building where his trial is expected to be held.

He did not answer reporters’ questions.

Three others have been indicted in the scandal, but none as high-ranking as Welch, the former president of the bid committee and Johnson, the Salt Lake City Organising Committee vice president.

The Justice Department began its investigation in December 1998 after allegations that organisers gave cash, scholarships, medical care and other gifts to International Olympic Committee members.

‘For 13 years, I’ve committed everything I’ve had to bringing the Olympics to Utah. My family made considerable sacrifices and to be accused of criminal conduct is devastating,’ Johnson said.

Each of the 15 federal charges carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine, or both.

Reuters

Source: SOCOG