A businessman who received millions of dollars for his work on Tokyo’s successful campaign to host the 2020 Olympic Games has said that he played a key role in securing the support of a former Olympics powerbroker suspected by French prosecutors of taking bribes to help Japan’s bid.
Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive at the advertising agency Dentsu, was paid US$8.2 million by the committee that spearheaded Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Games, financial records showed.
Takahashi said the work included lobbying International Olympic Committee (IOC) members such as Lamine Diack, the ex-Olympics powerbroker, and that he gave Diack gifts, including digital cameras and a Seiko watch.
“They’re cheap,” Takahashi added.
The payments made him the single largest recipient of money from the Tokyo bid committee, which was mostly funded by Japanese companies.
After his involvement in the successful campaign, Takahashi was named to the board of the Games organizing committee.
Takahashi acknowledged receiving the payments, but declined to give a full accounting of how he used the money, saying that he had urged Diack to support the Tokyo bid and denied any impropriety in those dealings.
It was normal to provide gifts as a way of currying good relations with important officials like Diack, he said, adding that there was nothing improper with the payments he received or with the way he used the money.
“You don’t go empty-handed. That’s common sense,” Takahashi said, referring to the gifts he gave Diack.
Banking records from the bid committee showed that it paid about US$46,500 to Seiko Watch.
IOC regulations allowed gifts of nominal value to be gifted, without stipulating an amount.
A day before the 2013 vote on the host city, Diack informed a meeting of African Olympic representatives that he planned to support Tokyo on merit, one of his lawyers said.
Diack did not instruct anyone on how to vote, the lawyer added.
The Tokyo bid committee also paid US$1.3 million to a little-known non-profit institute run by former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, a powerful figure in Japanese sports and the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee.
The payments to Takahashi’s company and Mori’s non-profit are enumerated in banking records from the Tokyo bid committee.
The payments were first reported by Japanese magazine Facta.
French investigators have not questioned anyone about the payments to the Japanese recipients.
The banking records were provided to French prosecutors by Japan’s government as part of France’s investigation into whether the Tokyo bid committee paid US$2.3 million through a Singaporean consultant to win Diack’s support for Japan to host the Games.
Diack, 86, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
His lawyer said that Diack “denies all allegations of bribery.”
A representative of Mori’s non-profit said the entity was paid by the bid committee to “mainly analyze international information.”
Bid committee secretary-general Nobumoto Higuchi said that Takahashi earned commissions on the corporate sponsorships he collected for the bid.
“Takahashi has connections,” Higuchi said. “We needed someone who understands the business world.”
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