French prosecutors are investigating Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Tsunekazu Takeda on “active corruption” charges relating to suspicious payments made while Tokyo was bidding to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
According to La Monde, the formal investigation of Takeda began December 10 by France’s financial crimes office as part of its wide-ranging look into sports corruption, including host city bids and Tokyo’s run against Istanbul and Madrid in 2013 to host the 2020 Olympics.
Tokyo is set to host those Games next year.
A 2016 investigation revealed Tokyo 2020 made two suspicious payments amounting to over $2 million to an account linked to the son of disgraced ex-world athletics chief Lamine Diack who has previously been linked to corruption. The payments were made to a Singapore-based account in the name of Black Tidings held by consultant Ian Tan Tong Han who is reportedly good friends with Papa Massata Diack – the former Diack’s son who is being held in France on alleged money laundering, bribery and corruption charges.
The payments were made just months before, then days after Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60 to 36 on the final election ballot. Madrid had been eliminated on a run-off ballot with Istanbul after the two remained deadlocked on the first ballot.
Prosecutors suspect Takeda authorized the payments that were made to gain favour from African IOC voters who were influenced by the Senegalese Diacks.
Tokyo 2020 and Takeda vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
Takeda told Kyodo News Friday “we have heard nothing new from the investigative team,” claiming new reports are false.
When the investigation began in 2016 Takeda maintained that the payments were made for legitimate consulting services.
He said at the time “All these services were properly contracted using accepted business practices.”
“The payments mentioned in the media were a legitimate consultant’s fee paid to the service we received from Mr. Tan’s company. It followed a full and proper contract and the monies were fully audited by Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC.”
71-year-old Takeda is a well-respected member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who represented Japan in Equestrian events at the Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976 Games. He has been active in many roles including a successful four years as Chief of the IOC’s Marketing Commission where he has inked several high-profile and lucrative deals. Takeda is also linked to Japan’s Royal family.
“The IOC ethics commission has opened a file and will continue to monitor the situation,” the IOC said in a statement Friday. “Mr. Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence.”
The IOC Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet at headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on Friday.
In September 2016 a Japanese Olympic Committee investigation cleared Takeda and the JOC of any wrongdoing.
A report on the findings concluded “The investigation concludes that (the bid committee’s deals) are not in violation of any of the laws of Japan.”
“In addition, the investigation team concludes that it does not form any crime under the penal code of France, and furthermore, that no violation of the IOC code of ethics can be found.
“What was most important for the team was to probe whether the bid committee in fact bribed someone.
“We think the investigation cleared the group of any suspicion in this regard.”
Suspicions about the payments first surfaced in January 2016 in a footnote of a report from French Prosecutors over a cover-up involving the IAAF and an alleged doping cover-up conspiracy.
“Transcripts of the various discussions between Turkish individuals with KD make reference to a discussion regarding the Olympic city bidding process for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games,” a footnote on page 36 of WADA’s commission report read.
KD references Khalil Diack, son of former International Olympic Committee (IOC) member and IAAF President Lamine Diack (LD).
The report continues “it is stated that Turkey lost LD’s support because they did not pay sponsorship moneys of $ 4 to 5 million either to the Diamond League or IAAF.”
“According the transcript the Japanese did pay such a sum. The 2020 Games were awarded to Tokyo.”