Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Japan Olympic chief quits amid scandal

FRAUD ALLEGATIONS:Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda has denied any involvement in fraud and defended his innocence again yesterday

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Olympic Committee president Tsunekazu Takeda speaks to the media after a meeting of the committee’s board in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) yesterday said he would step down in June, as French authorities probe his involvement in payments made before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic Games.

“Considering the future of the JOC, I think the most appropriate thing is to leave things to a new leader from the next generation so that they can host the Olympics and carve a new era,” Tsunekazu Takeda told a meeting of the JOC in Tokyo.

He said his decision had “nothing to do with the investigation.”

The 71-year-old said he would also be stepping down from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Takeda has come under pressure not to seek an additional term when his current mandate ends in June after it was revealed that French authorities believe that they have evidence of corruption in the awarding of the 2020 Games to Tokyo.

Current JOC rules require candidates for the top post to be 70 or younger at the time of their candidacy, but there had been rumors that the committee was considering a change to allow Takeda to stay on through 2020.

However, over the past few months, the investigation into Takeda has become an unwelcome distraction for organizers of the Games, with less than 500 days until the opening ceremony.

Asked why he did not step down immediately, Takeda said: “I really feel sorry for causing this sensation, but I think I’m responsible for fulfilling my chairmanship until my term ends.”

Takeda has denied any involvement in corruption and again yesterday defended his innocence.

“As I have said, I did not do anything wrong. I will continue to make an effort to prove my innocence,” he told journalists.

In January, it was revealed that Takeda was facing a judicial process in France over two payments totaling S$2.8 million (US$2.07 million at the current exchange rate).

His status has been changed to mis en examen, a legal step that roughly translates as being charged.

It does not automatically trigger a trial, but means that prosecutors believe that there is strong or corroborated evidence of wrongdoing.

Takeda has said that he was “never involved in any decisionmaking process” over the payments and that the money was a legitimate reimbursement for “a consultancy contract signed through appropriate approval procedures.”

The probe, launched in 2016, centers on two payments made to Singapore-based Black Tidings, a firm linked to Papa Massata Diack.

Diack is the son of Lamine Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and is also embroiled in a bribery scandal.

He is suspected of having received several million euros in bribes, either for sponsorship contracts or to favor the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympic bids.

He has been on Interpol’s most-wanted list since 2015, but the Senegalese government has refused to extradite him to France, despite pleas from IOC president Thomas Bach.

The payments, labeled “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid” and paid from a Japanese bank account, were made before and after the IOC voted for Tokyo to host the Games.

The case is being investigated in France because of suspicions that the funds might have been laundered there.

According to documents seen by Agence France Presse, Takeda told French investigators that Black Tidings had been recommended by the giant Japanese advertising firm Dentsu.

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