Japanese Olympic chief indicted in France for corruption

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Tsunekazu Takeda, who masterminded Tokyo's 2020 bid, strongly denies the accusations (AFP Photo)
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AFP

The head of Japan’s Olympic Committee has been indicted in Paris for “active corruption” in connection with the awarding of the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, an accusation he strongly denies.

Tsunekazu Takeda, 71, was indicted on December 10 by investigating magistrates looking into a suspect payment of 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2.3 million) made before the Japanese capital was chosen to host the Olympics, a French judicial source said Friday.

Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul in the 2013 vote.

Takeda, a former Olympic show-jumper who led the country’s campaign for the Games, said he had cooperated with a French judge looking into the matter, adding: “I was not involved in any wrongdoing such as bribery.”

Takeda said “it appeared that no new facts” had come out during the Paris hearing, held at an unspecified date.

He added that “wrong information that I was indicted has been shared,” and pledged he would “cooperate with investigations to clear up any doubts.”

The indictment by the French investigative magistrate does not automatically trigger a trial, but it means there is strong or corroborated evidence of wrongdoing.

The French investigation, launched in 2016, relates to two payments made to Singapore-based Black Tidings, a firm linked to Papa Massata Diack, son of the Senegalese former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lamine Diack.

The younger Diack, formerly a marketing advisor to the IAAF, has been accused of accepting bribes.

The funds, labelled “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid”, were paid from a Japanese bank account.

The payments were made in two stages, before and after the IOC vote that decided the host city.

France is investigating the case because funds involved might have been laundered in France.

Shortly after accusations first surfaced, the Japanese Olympic committee appointed a three-man judicial panel to look into the matter. The panel reportedly cleared the campaign committee of any wrongdoing in September 2016.

At the time, Japanese Olympic officials said the suspect funds were owed for “the legitimate payment of a consultant”, adding that no one was aware of a link between Black Tidings and Papa Massata Diack.

Papa Massata Diack, known as PMD, is suspected of having received several million euros in bribes, either for sponsorship contracts or to favour the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo bids for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

Massata Diack has been on Interpol’s most-wanted list since December 2015 but the Senegalese government refuses to extradite him to France.

Last month, IOC President Thomas Bach formally requested that Senegal cooperate with French authorities investigating the corruption claims.

In a letter sent to Senegalese President Macky Sall on November 16, which AFP has seen, Bach said investigating magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke “told us of the difficulties he has come up against in the execution of the two investigation letters addressed to the Minister of Justice of Senegal”.

Massata Diack received several payments from Asia in 2013, including some made by Tan Ton Hang, a Black Tidings representative, according to French investigators.

In July 2013, PMD bought 131,400 euros (151,000 dollars) worth of watches and other luxury goods in Paris. Some 85,000 euros of this was paid by Black Tidings.

– Senegal connection –

The French investigation was launched in the wake of allegations of wide-scale corruption involving the IAAF, which was initially accused of helping Russian athletes evade sanctions imposed for failing doping tests.

News of the indictment came a day after Japanese Olympics Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada held talks in Paris with representatives of the Paris 2024 Olympics committee. A spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Paris, Yoshihiro Higuchi, said the judicial investigation was not discussed.

Lamine Diack, PMD’s father, was head of the governing body of the IAAF from 1999 until he was arrested in France in 2015.

He was charged with accepting millions of dollars to cover up failed Russian doping tests along with two other IAAF officials.

Lamine Diack was also charged with favouring his son in negotiations over sponsorship and TV rights.

A spokesperson for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) said Friday it was monitoring the situation.

“Mr Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence,” the spokesperson said.

Allegations under investigation “refer to events before the IOC introduced far-reaching reforms,” the spokesperson also said, adding that Olympic consultants were now fully vetted.

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