Japan prosecutors investigate Olympic sponsor payments to executive-media

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo prosecutors are investigating payments from clothing retailer AOKI Holdings, an Olympic sponsor firm, to a company run by a former board member of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, Japanese media reported on Wednesday.

The Yomiuri daily said the investigation is looking at whether payments of at least 45 million yen ($325,544) between 2017 and 2021 to a company run by Haruyuki Takahashi violated a law that prohibits public servants from taking money in relation to their positions.

Board members of the organising committee were considered as quasi-public servants.

Reuters could not establish contact details for Takahashi, a former executive of advertising agency Dentsu Inc.

However, Takahashi was quoted by the Nikkei business daily saying his company received fees for providing sports-related consulting to AOKI. As a member of the board, he was not involved in matters that concerned anyone’s financial interests, including the sale of official licensed products, he told the newspaper.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said it would not comment on an individual case.

AOKI said the media reports were not based on anything the company had announced, and declined to comment further.

As an “official supporter” for the Tokyo Games, AOKI provided referees’ uniforms, and sold licensed products such as jackets with Olympic emblems.

Reuters reported in March 2020 that Takahashi was paid more than $8 million in 2013 and 2014 by the Tokyo Olympic bid committee for undisclosed activities. At the time, he told Reuters his work included lobbying International Olympic Committee members and said there was nothing improper with the payments he received or the way in which he used the money.

Later in 2020, International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach said no IOC rules had been infringed by the payments. ($1=138.23 yen)

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Neil Fullick)

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