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Politics

Japan's Olympic chief denies 2020 bid corruption

Tsunekazu Takeda, facing French investigation, vows to 'prove innocence'

Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda addresses the allegations in Tokyo on Jan. 15. (Photo by Wataru Ito)

TOKYO -- The Japanese Olympic Committee chief who led Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Games on Tuesday denied allegations of corruption leveled by French investigators, vowing to clear his name.

Tsunekazu Takeda told reporters that an internal investigation by his committee had "concluded there was no illegality under Japanese law."

"I will do everything I can to prove my innocence," Takeda said.

Takeda is the subject of a preliminary investigation by a French court -- a precursor to a trial. He declined to field questions, citing the ongoing probe.

On Friday, Takeda had released a statement saying that he "did not do anything dishonest" and that he would "continue to cooperate with the investigation to dispel any suspicions."

The investigation centers on a total of about 230 million yen ($2.12 million) in consulting fees the Japanese committee paid to Singaporean company Black Tidings in 2013. The French authorities allege that some of this money may have been used to bribe Lamine Diack, then a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Takeda has argued that the payments were legitimate, for services provided.

It was in 2013 that the IOC held its General Assembly to decide the 2020 host. Diack, who hails from Senegal and once served as chairman of the International Association of Athletics Federations, was considered a key leader in the athletics world and a coordinator among African member states.

A Black Tidings representative is said to have close ties to Diack's son, Papa Massata Diack. Suspicions arose in 2015, when French prosecutors followed a trail of money related to doping involving Diack.

In France, bribery between private companies is subject to criminal penalties. French prosecutors opted to proceed with the preliminary investigation process, in which a court looks into major crimes before a trial.

A French judge presiding over the preliminary hearings questioned Takeda in December. The authorities will decide whether the case should go to trial after hearing from other parties concerned.

Takeda represented Japan in equestrian events at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Games in Montreal. He became chairman of the JOC in 2001 and an IOC member in 2012.

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