Bribery Allegations Rocks Tokyo 2020, As Ex-Dentsu Executive Admits Giving Gifts To IOC Members During Bid Process
A former executive at the Dentsu marketing agency has admitted giving gifts to influential International Olympic Committee (IOC) figures during the 2020 Olympic bidding process which saw Tokyo awarded the Games.
Haruyuki Takahashi told the Reuters news agency that he gave gifts including digital cameras and Seiko watches to the likes of Lamine Diack, the former head of track and field’s global governing body World Athletics, BSN Reports.
Diack and his son Papa Massata are awaiting trial in France having been charged with corruption relating to a number of sporting events. The elder Diack denies all allegations of bribery, while his son, a former marketing executive, has also denied any wrongdoing.
Takahashi’s revelations raise new questions over Tokyo’s successful bid for the now-postponed 2020 Olympics, with the businessman detailing how he had sought to influence Games powerbrokers, including one IOC figure suspected by French prosecutors of taking bribes to help Japan’s bid, ahead of the 2013 vote.
“You don’t go empty handed, that’s common sense,” Takahashi told Reuters, referring to the gifts he gave Diack. “They’re cheap.”
The Reuters report adds that “good” watches were handed out at parties organised as part of Tokyo’s campaign to win hosting rights to the 2020 Games, although he did not specify the brand.
According to financial records reviewed by Reuters, Takahashi was paid US$8.2 million by the 2020 bid committee, making him the single largest recipient of money from the Tokyo organisers.
Takahashi said it was for “wining and dining” influential individuals who could further the city’s bid and for marketing and other activities related to its Olympic campaign.
Takahashi admitted asking Diack to support the bid but denied he paid bribes or did anything wrong. “I didn’t pay any money to anybody,” he told Reuters.
IOC regulations at the time of the 2020 bid allowed for the giving of gifts of nominal value but did not stipulate a specific amount.
Nobumoto Higuchi, the secretary general of the Tokyo 2020 bid committee, told Reuters that Takahashi earned commissions on the corporate sponsorships he helped secure for the bid. “Takahashi has connections,” Higuchi said. “We needed someone who understands the business world.”
Tokyo-based Dentsu, one of Japan’s most powerful companies, served as an advisor to the Tokyo 2020 bid committee and was appointed as the local organising committee’s exclusive marketing agency in April 2014. It has since proved instrumental in shaping the Games commercially, helping the local organisers amass well in excess of US$3 billion in domestic sponsorship revenue.
The IOC has said it would not have been made aware of payments between private parties or gifts given to its own members.
The Tokyo bid has been under suspicion for paying bribes since 2016, with Tsunekazu Takeda, the former president of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) who headed Tokyo’s bid and was a member of the IOC, subsequently resigning from those posts due to corruption allegations against him.
Takeda is under investigation by French prosecutors on suspicion of authorising payments from the bid committee to the Singaporean consultancy Black Tidings. According to investigators, the company acted as an intermediary for funnelling money to Massata Diack.
Widely reported banking records, provided to French prosecutors by Japan’s government as part of the investigation, show Tokyo’s bid committee paid US$2.3 million to Black Tidings.
Takeda has denied wrongdoing, saying he believed the payments were for legitimate lobbying efforts. His lawyer told Reuters he did not instruct Takahashi to lobby Diack and was unaware of any gifts given by Takahashi to Diack.