Tokyo Olympics exec questioned, denies bribery allegations

An executive of the now-defunct Tokyo Olympics organizing committee appears to have denied allegations of accepting bribes from a sponsor company when prosecutors questioned him on Wednesday, investigative sources said.

Haruyuki Takahashi, 78, is believed to have received around 45 million yen ($330,000) from major business suit retailer Aoki Holdings Inc. after a company he headed reached a consulting deal with the firm. Aoki clinched a sponsorship deal about a year later.

Prosecutors will continue questioning Takahashi, including on the flow of funds, as part of its probe into the allegations. The prosecutors searched his home on Tuesday.

In September 2017, the consulting firm headed by Takahashi signed the deal with Aoki, and the retailer announced in October 2018 that it had sealed an "official supporter" contract with the Olympics organizing committee.

The agreement allowed Aoki to use the games' emblems for business purposes and sell officially licensed products. It subsequently sold over 30,000 suits emblazoned with the logo.

Meanwhile, offices of Japan's largest advertising agency Dentsu Inc., where Takahashi served as a senior managing director, were searched the same day as his home.

He had allegedly requested an executive of the organizing committee's marketing department, who was on loan from Dentsu, to expedite the screening process for licensed products from Aoki.

Suspicions have grown as many other Dentsu employees were also on loan to the department, which was responsible for selecting sponsors for the Tokyo games.

Prosecutors have been questioning Aoki employees since this spring over the suspected bribery of Takahashi in return for favors.

"We had high hopes in Mr. Takahashi's power" given his background, one source quoted Hironori Aoki, a former chairman and founder of Aoki, as saying.

Aoki's subordinate had emailed the former chairman requesting the help of Takahashi, according to the sources.

© Kyodo News