Olympics: Tokyo prosecutors raid ad agencies in bid-rigging probe

The Tokyo office of advertising giant Dentsu were raided by Japanese authorities on Nov 25. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO – Tokyo prosecutors and Japan’s Fair Trade Commission on Monday raided the headquarters of major advertising firm Hakuhodo Inc over suspected bid-rigging connected to the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021.

The search of Japan’s second-largest advertising firm follows that of the country’s biggest firm Dentsu Inc being raided on Friday.

Along with another advertising agency ADK Holdings Inc admitting its culpability in the widening scandal, all of Japan’s top three advertising firms are now implicated in the bid-rigging scandal for the rights to arrange test events for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021.

Tokyu Agency Inc and Tokyo-based event production companies, Same Two Inc and Fuji Creative Corp, were also raided on Monday, the prosecutors said. They suspect the awarding of contracts in open bids held for the rights to arrange 26 test events were rigged.

Informed sources have said the total value of the contracts is worth more than 500 million yen (S$4.98 million).

Along with advertising giant Dentsu, on Friday, the residence of a senior official of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee was also searched.

Cerespo Co, an event production company, has also been implicated.

A spokesman for Hakuhodo, who won two bids worth around 40 million yen, and Dentsu said they would “fully cooperate” with investigations.

In August, Haruyuki Takahashi, a former member of the Tokyo 2020 board and before that a Dentsu executive, was arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes from Olympic sponsors.

Monday’s raid was conducted after ad agency ADK Holdings informed the Fair Trade Commission of its involvement in collusion on bid-rigging, Kyodo news agency said.

Reporting by a company of its involvement in wrongdoing can often result in leniency from regulators when penalties are handed out.

Executives from ADK, suits retailer Aoki Holdings and publishing firm Kadokawa have also been arrested in connection to the bribery scandal.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics said they would launch a streamlined public ticketing operation ahead of the event, with the first draw for a total of 10 million tickets for sale starting on Dec 1, 2022.

Anyone in the world can enter the draw, which ends on Jan 31, 2023. Some three million tickets in packages will effectively be available in February. Tickets will be obtainable from a single platform and will not be available through ticket resellers.

In past Olympics, early-morning sessions for some less popular sports struggled to fill the stands, leaving many empty seats and the broadcasters unhappy with the TV images.

Half of the tickets will cost 50 euros (S$72) or less, while prices for a three-session package start at 72 euros.

“The fact that you can make your own package is designed to avoid no-shows, which happens after people buy a package for a specific session and are handed with it two sessions they are not interested in,” said Damien Rajot, head of ticketing. XINHUA, REUTERS

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