The sponsorship scandal at the Tokyo Olympics expands with more arrests


Bribery allegations against a former member of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee widened on Tuesday when Japanese prosecutors “re-arrested” Haruyuki Takahashi in a case involving alleged payments from a publisher who became a sponsor of the Games.

The latest allegations center on 76 million yen ($540,000) that Takahashi received from Tokyo-based publishing company Kadokawa, according to the Tokyo District Procuratorate. The sponsorship enabled Kadokawa, which also produces films and games, to publish programs and other books related to the Tokyo Olympics.

Also arrested on Tuesday were two Kadokawa officers, Toshiyuki Yoshihara and Kyoji Maniwa, who allegedly deposited the money.

Takahashi has been in detention since his arrest last month on suspicion of receiving bribes from clothing manufacturer Aoki Holdings. On Tuesday, he was formally charged with receiving 51 million yen ($360,000) in bribes from Aoki.

Three Aoki officers were also charged with paying bribes. The money was deposited into a bank account owned by Takahashi’s company from October 2017 to March this year in Aoki’s bid to become an Olympic sponsor and manufacture licensed products, prosecutors said.

Aoki, which makes “recruitment suits” that high school seniors wear to job interviews, was a surprise choice to dress the Japan Olympic team when other nations had top fashion brands designing uniforms.

Kazumasa Fukami, the head of a consulting firm, was arrested on suspicion of helping Takahashi collect the bribes.

Takahashi, a former executive at advertising firm Dentsu, had a tremendous impact in brokering sponsorship for the Olympics.

Takahashi left Dentsu’s board of directors in 2009, but continued to exert considerable influence in the advertising and events sectors in Japan and ran his own company.

He was not available for comment, but some Japanese media reports quoted Takahashi as claiming his innocence and saying the payments were for counseling services.

Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, the chairman of Kadokawa, who is not directly involved in the allegations, denied that his company paid bribes, Japanese media reported.

On Monday, Tokyo prosecutors raided Daiko Advertising’s Osaka and Tokyo offices as part of investigations into corruption at the Olympic Games. There were no arrests in the Daiko case.

The scandal is likely a setback to Japan’s ambitions to pursue the 2030 Winter Olympics for Sapporo. Seiko Hashimoto, a lawmaker and Olympian who was in charge of the Tokyo Olympics, has promised to cooperate in the investigation.

Tokyo hosted the delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2021 with much fanfare and criticism over balloon costs. The games were postponed for a year and held without public ticket sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The official price for last year’s Tokyo Games was $13 billion, mostly public money.