Tokyo Olympics official arrested in bribery case
Prosecutors in Japan have arrested former Tokyo 2020 Olympics board member Haruyuki Takahashi on suspicion of bribery, as reported by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Takahashi was apprehended on suspicion of receiving bribes worth hundreds of billions of yen from Aoki Holdings, a suit retailer and sponsor of the Games held last year, Asahi Shimbun says.
In addition to Takahashi, prosecutors arrested Hironori Aoki, Aoki Holdings' former chairman, and two others who have not been named yet as detailed in a report by the Kyodo news agency.
In late July, investigators raided Takahashi's home and the offices of Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Group where Takahashi was an ex-executive of Dentsu Inc.
Reports at the time of the raid alleged that Takahashi was paid over $1 million by Aoki Holdings on top of payments made by the company that were already being investigated by prosecutors in Tokyo.
The Nikkei business daily newspaper said that Aoki paid out roughly 230 million Japanese yen ($1.7 million) to a Dentsu subsidiary company in 2017, with the money then transferred to a company operated by Takahashi.
Tens of millions of yen were rightly transferred to a duo of sports organizations, but Takahashi's firm kept a leftover 150 million yen ($1.1 million), claimed Nikkei.
The same outlet also reported how Takahashi and Aoki insisted there was nothing illegal about the money, which the Yomiuri newspaper put at an initial payment of 250 million yen ($1.9 million).
Quoting a source, the Nikkei explained how Takahashi told prosecutors that the money was paid to him in exchange for consulting work carried out since 2009, and not for anything he did while acting as a Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee Director.
When the raids occurred, prosecutors were looking into allegedly inappropriate payments of 45 million yen ($340,000) made to Takahashi with Dentsu said to be cooperating in the investigation.
In March 2020, Reuters claimed that Takahashi received more than $8 million from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bid committee for undisclosed activities in 2013 and 2014.
Takahashi then told the outlet that these included lobbying International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, with the body's president Thomas Bach insisting that the payments didn't break any of its rules.
Takahashi also maintained there had been nothing improper about the payments or the manner in which he used them, yet the scandal and his arrest this week further tarnishes the legacy of Tokyo 2020.
Taking place last summer a year late due to the pandemic, the Games went ahead to a backdrop of disapproval from the Japanese public who protested against them in the build-up.