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Politics

IOC launches bribery probe against Japan Olympic head

Allegations by French officials center on $2m payment to Singapore consultancy

Japan Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda is suspected of bribery tied to Tokyo's bid to host the 2020 Olympics.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The International Olympic Committee has opened an investigation into bribery allegations against Japanese Olympic chief Tsunekazu Takeda, in response to a separate probe being conducted by French authorities.

The IOC Ethics Commission spoke with Takeda by video call on Friday. It did not release details of the conversation, but said the Olympic committee is in "close contact" with French authorities and "will continue to monitor the situation."

"Mr. Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence," the IOC said. Takeda serves not only as president of the Japan Olympic Committee, but also as the marketing chair of the IOC.

Takeda has denied the allegations and pledged to "continue cooperating with investigations in order to dispel any suspicions." The JOC said he will hold a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, where he is expected to reiterate his innocence.

The bid committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, led by Takeda, paid about 230 million yen ($2.12 million at current rates) to Singapore-based consultancy Black Tidings back in 2013. French investigators suspect part of this payment made its way to a son of Lamine Diack, a former head of the international governing body for track and field who was then a member of the IOC.

Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Games at the IOC session in 2013.

"Everyone who was in the running wanted Mr. Diack on their side," a source who was involved in Tokyo's bid said, referring to the Senegalese official's influence in the track and field and the African constituencies.

The bribery allegations first emerged in 2015 as part of a French investigation into Diack's involvement in a doping scandal. The JOC created an investigative team in May 2016, which issued a report in September of that year concluding that Black Tidings was compensated for lobbying and other legitimate activities.

But the JOC probe was unable to question Diack, his son or leaders of Black Tidings. The team at the time acknowledged the limitations of its findings.

French authorities have since remained on the case. They recently brought charges against Takeda, who attended a hearing with a judge there in December, and the authorities are expected to decide whether to hold a trial. The case could drag on, given the involvement of many individuals across different countries.

"I am shocked and puzzled," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said Friday. "I plan to get more information on what is happening."

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