Japan sports chief charged in France

PARIS • Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) chief Tsunekazu Takeda yesterday denied bribery or any wrongdoing, after being indicted in France for "active corruption" linked to the Tokyo 2020 Games bid. He claimed that he had cooperated with a judge at a hearing in Paris on an unspecified date, insisting he was "not involved in any wrongdoing such as bribery".

Takeda, who also heads the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) marketing commission and has led the JOC since 2001, was adamant "no new facts" had come out during the hearing, adding "wrong information that I was indicted has been shared".

He said: "I apologise for the huge worries that have been brought to the people of Japan, who have given so much support to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and in order to put every doubt to rest, I intend to continue cooperating with investigations."

The IOC yesterday issued a statement saying: "Mr Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence."

However, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike admitted she was "very surprised" by the new development.

A French judicial source told Agence France-Presse that Takeda was indicted on Dec 10 by magistrates looking into a payment of nearly €2 million (S$3.1 million) made before Tokyo was chosen to host next year's Olympics.

The investigation, launched in 2016, centred on two tranches labelled "Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid", made by a Japanese bank to Black Tidings, a Singapore-based firm linked to Papa Massa Diack.

The Senegalese is the son of Lamine Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The transfers were made before and after the IOC vote that decided the host city. They were discovered as part of a separate French case looking into allegations of corruption and money laundering linked to a cover-up of Russian athletes' doping by international sports officials.

Japanese officials said at the time they were legitimate consultant fees, and a panel commissioned by the JOC said in September 2016 it had found them to be legitimate.

In France, investigative magistrates can decide to charge companies or individuals in a procedure known as "mise en examen" when there are "serious and consistent" indications showing likely involvement in the matter under probe.

They can then decide whether to refer a case to trial, but are not involved after that stage.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Japan sports chief charged in France'. Print Edition | Subscribe