Olympics: Japan Olympic chief denies bribery after France corruption indictment

Tsunekazu Takeda was indicted on Dec 10, 2018, by investigating magistrates looking into a suspect payment of nearly €2 million (S$3.1 million) made before Tokyo was chosen to host the Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Japan's Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda on Friday (Jan 11) denied bribery or any wrongdoing after being indicted in France for corruption linked to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid.

He was indicted in Paris for "active corruption" in connection with the awarding of the Games to Tokyo, a French judicial source said.

The 71-year-old was indicted on Dec 10 by investigating magistrates looking into a suspect payment of nearly €2 million (S$3.1 million) made before the Japanese capital was chosen to host the Olympics.

Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul in the 2013 vote.

Takeda, a former Olympic showjumper who led the country's campaign for the Games, is also an influential member of the International Olympic Committee.

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

The younger Diack is himself a powerful marketing adviser to the IAAF.

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

Papa Massa 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.

Massa 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 Nov 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".

Takeda, who is currently the vice-chairman of the 2020 Olympics organising committee, was questioned in 2017 by Japanese magistrates acting on behalf of the French judiciary.

French judges have taken on the case because they argue that the funds involved might have been laundered in France.

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.

A spokesman for the office of the Japanese minister in charge of the Olympics, Yoshitaka Sakurada, on Friday declined to comment about the case.

"We can't comment as we have not been informed about the case," the spokesman said.

When Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike was asked to comment on the indictment, she told reporters: "I don't have enough information. I want to collect information. I'm quite surprised."

Asked about any potential impact on the 2020 Olympics, she said: "I want to confirm what has been happening and how. I want to start with that."

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.

In June, he was also charged with favouring his son in negotiations over sponsorship and TV rights.

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