Samsung rejects Olympic bid corruption claims

SEOUL • South Korean tech giant Samsung yesterday denied allegations that it illegally lobbied International Olympic Committee members to vote for Pyeongchang to host this year's Winter Olympics over the German and French cities of Munich and Annecy.

Corruption allegations surrounding Pyeongchang's successful Olympic bid have seen Samsung accused of offering various incentives in return for votes.

South Korean broadcaster SBS TV said it had obtained copies of 137 e-mails including messages between Samsung executives and Papa Massata Diack - the scandal-tainted son of former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Lamine Diack.

"Samsung has never engaged in any illegal lobbying activities to have Pyeongchang win the bidding", Samsung said in a press statement, stressing the company's sponsorship agreement with the IAAF was legitimate.

According to SBS, the e-mails included one listing 27 IOC members with voting rights to choose a host country and another suggesting Papa Diack had promised to convince each one to vote for Pyeongchang.

There was also one allegedly marked "strictly confidential" from 2010 in which Diack requested US$12.5 million (S$16.4 million) in funds - including a three-year, US$9.5 million sponsorship for the annual IAAF-held Diamond League.

The e-mails dated February-December 2010 were confiscated by South Korean prosecutors several months ago during a massive graft investigation into former South Korean president Park Geun Hye and her secret confidante Choi Soon Sil, SBS said. Park was jailed for 24 years by a Seoul court last Friday.

The e-mail request also included US$1.5 million for political campaign funds for Papa Diack's father, and US$1.5 million for lobbying efforts for Pyeongchang for the six months ahead of voting in Durban to choose the host city in July 2011, SBS claimed.

On top of the US$12.5 million, Papa Diack demanded an unspecified "success fee", the e-mail showed. Pyeongchang comfortably won the vote.

SBS did not publish any evidence of Samsung making payments in response to Papa Diack's request.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Samsung rejects Olympic bid corruption claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe