France’s financial crimes office announced Friday that is investigating Tsunekazu Takeda, president of Japan’s Olympic committee, for “active corruption” related to the bidding on the 2020 Tokyo Games, which begin in a little more than 18 months. Takeda has yet to be formally indicted on any charge, but a French judge has determined that there is enough evidence to consider him a “formal suspect,” according to Reuters.
Le Monde reports that the magistrate overseeing a wide-ranging French investigation into sports corruption, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, suspects that the 2013 IOC vote that awarded Japan the 2020 Olympics was tainted by backroom deals involving payments to African IOC members, who then threw their support to the Japanese capital’s bid. French prosecutors have questioned Takeda about $2 million worth of payments made by Japan’s bidding committee to a Singaporean consulting firm called Black Tidings, which is headed by a close ally of Papa Massata Diack, the son of Lamine Diack, the Senegalese former president of the International Association of Athletics Federation.
Lamine Diack, who headed world track and field’s governing body from 1999 to 2015, is facing a host of money laundering and corruption charges in France and also has been accused of helping sway the vote for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro via bribery.
Takeda, who remains in Tokyo, denied wrongdoing in a statement released Friday by Japan’s Olympic Committee. Japanese Olympic officials have said that the payments to Black Tidings were legitimate consulting fees, but French officials are investigating whether the payments were in fact bribes and that Takeda authorized them.
“I apologize for the huge worries that have been brought to the people of Japan, who have given so much support to the Tokyo Olympics and [Paralympics], and in order to put every doubt to rest I intend to continue cooperating with investigations,” Takeda said, per Reuters.
In a separate statement, the International Olympic Committee said its ethics commission “has opened a file and will continue to monitor the situation.” The ethics commission is scheduled to meet Friday in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Associated Press reports that Takeda could be provisionally suspended from Olympic duty.
Japan’s Olympic preparations have been bedeviled by massive cost overruns at a time when the IOC is looking for ways to make the Games less of a financial drain on the host cities. After initially forecasting that it would cost around $7 billion to stage the Olympics in Tokyo, an audit prepared by Japan’s federal government last year found they will cost at least $25 billion, a sum exceeded only by the spending for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games ($45 billion) and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ($51 billion).
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