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Ex-Tokyo Olympics official, ad execs arrested in bid-rigging scandal

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TOKYO: Japanese prosecutors arrested on Wednes­day a former Tokyo Olympics organising committee official and executives at three advertising agencies on suspected bid-rigging of test events for the Games, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said.

The arrests come after months of investigations into alleged corruption in the planning and sponsorship of the international sporting event that was held in 2021 after a pandemic-driven postponement.

Yasuo Mori, the former deputy executive director of the Tokyo 2020 Games Operations Bureau, was arrested for suspected breach of antitrust laws, the Asahi newspaper and other Japanese publications reported.

The media reports later said the prosecutors also arrested Koji Henmi, an official at advertising giant Dentsu Inc, Masahiko Fujino of television production and sales company Fuji Creative Corp, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings Inc, and Yoshiji Kamata of events operator Cerespo Co.

Local media published photos of police raiding the home of Mori, who ran test events for the pandemic-postponed Summer Games held in 2021.

Dentsu said in a statement that a former employee, who currently works at a group firm in Japan, was arrested.

“We sincerely apologise to all stakeholders, including our clients, for causing tremendous trouble and worries,” it said, adding the company would fully co-operate with the investigation.

A Cerespo spokesperson also confirmed the arrest of its executive in an emailed statement that too promised co-operation with the investigation.

A spokesperson at Fuji Creative declined to comment.

Prosecutors accuse the four men of rigging a string of supposedly open competitive bids and limited tender contracts for Olympic events, reportedly worth a total of 40 billion yen ($305 million), local media said.

The four “limited competition in trade linked to test events planning… against the interests of the public,” the statement said.

They decided which company would land a contract and “agreed that only the company that was picked to win the contract should bid.”

The allegations concern preparation for test events between February and July 2018, prosecutors said.

“It was truly regrettable if there was fraud in the bidding process for the Tokyo Games’ test event,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the Japanese government’s top spokesperson.

The organising committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games was dissolved in June last year.

Prosecutors are already investigating bribery allegations around the Games over claims a former Tokyo 2020 board member took money from companies in exchange for Olympic partnership deals.

The former official, Haruyuki Takahashi, has been arrested over the scandal. In December, the former executive of a major clothing company admitted in court that he offered money to secure sponsorship rights, according to national broadcaster NHK.

The corruption scandal has cast a shadow over the northern city of Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Officials there have stopped holding promotional events for the bid and plan a nationwide poll to gauge support.

The ballooning saga is not the first time questions have been raised over impropriety around the Tokyo Games.

The former head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, stepped down in 2019 after French prosecutors launched an investigation into corruption allegations linked to Tokyo’s Olympic bid.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023


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