Japanese insist 2020 payments went to 'legit' firm

TOKYO • The leader of Japan's bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and other Japanese officials yesterday said the company at the centre of questions raised about payments by the bid committee was a legitimate firm and not a paper company.

The Guardian reported last week that the Tokyo bid team made payments totalling more than US$2 million (S$2.7 million) to a Singapore bank account it said was linked to Papa Massata Diack, son of disgraced former international athletics chief Lamine Diack.

Japanese opposition lawmakers raised the issue in Parliament yesterday, with questions centring on a Singapore-based company called Black Tidings to whose account the British newspaper said the payment was made.

The Singapore account was allegedly controlled by Ian Tan Tong Han, a friend of the younger Diack, The Guardian reported. The company's business address is in a housing complex in Singapore, but it has no registered phone number.

"You have indicated that this company has a business record and we absolutely believe that this is not a paper company," former bidding committee president and Japan Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda told a parliamentary committee. "Consultants in this industry often are individual business people who, because they are travelling around the world, often use their homes as a business address."

Education and Sports Minister Hiroshi Hase told parliament that the consulting company had been needed to gather information and for Tokyo's bidding strategy.

"However, we have been informed that the Tokyo bidding committee could not have been aware of the connection of the company with Lamine Diack," he said.

Diack is under a French police investigation for corruption at the IAAF, athletics' governing body.

His son, speaking to Kyodo News agency in his native Senegal, insisted that he had not received any money from the Tokyo bid team.

Yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he had ordered full cooperation with the French investigation into the payments.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Japanese insist 2020 payments went to 'legit' firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe