New Japan police raids over Tokyo Olympics claims: reports

Japanese police carried out new raids on Wednesday over allegations a 2020 Tokyo Olympics board member received money from a sponsor he signed a consulting contract with, local media reported.

Haruyuki Takahashi, 78, is suspected of receiving more than $300,000 from high street business suit retailer Aoki Holdings Inc., an “official partner” of last year’s pandemic-delayed mega-event.

That could reportedly constitute bribery because Takahashi was considered a quasi-civil servant who was not permitted to accept money or gifts related to his position.

Takahashi’s Tokyo home was raided by investigators on Tuesday morning according to reports.

And local media said searches were conducted Wednesday at the home of former Aoki chairman Hironori Aoki, 83, and the disbanded Tokyo 2020 organising committee office at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The Tokyo Olympics organising committee wound down operations last month but it maintains a presence to deal with assets and liabilities.

The Tokyo prosecutors’ office told AFP it could not comment on individual cases.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters the situation was “extremely regrettable” and she would “keep a close eye on developments.”

“I have told the organising committee that they should co-operate fully with this investigation,” she said.

A sports consulting firm run by Takahashi is suspected of receiving money from Aoki for a contract signed in 2017, according to local media.

Aoki in October 2018 became a Tokyo Games sponsor, allowing it to use the event’s logo and sell officially licensed products.

Takahashi told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper last week that the money his company received was for consultancy work.

“There was no conflict of interest whatsoever with my position as an organising committee board member,” he was quoted as saying.

Aoki issued a statement last week saying it had no comment on reports of the payments.

Takahashi, a former executive at Japan’s biggest advertising agency, Dentsu, served on the Tokyo 2020 board from June 2014.

Former Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto told reporters Tuesday that she would “cooperate fully” with the investigation if instructed to do so.

“Matters such as this coming to light after the fact is very disappointing,” she said.

“We have to act in a way that will not tarnish what was achieved even with the pandemic.”

The case is not the first time questions have been raised about alleged impropriety around the Games.

French prosecutors launched an investigation into allegations of corruption linked to Tokyo’s bid for the Games in 2016.

The former head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, stepped down in 2019 as French authorities probed his involvement in payments made before Tokyo was awarded the event.

The Tokyo Olympics opened on July 23 last year after an unprecedented one-year delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Games were held in largely empty stadiums after fans were banned over surging virus infections in Japan.

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