How far does shadow of wrongdoing reach?

Suspicions of bid-rigging have emerged following corruption scandals. How far does the shadow of wrongdoing extend in connection with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics held last year? These cases must be investigated thoroughly to reveal all the misdeeds.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office searched the head office of advertising giant Dentsu Inc. and other locations over alleged violations of the Antimonopoly Law, which prohibits unreasonable restraint of trade, amid growing suspicion that companies and other entities engaged in bid-rigging for test events held ahead of the Tokyo Games.

A total of 56 test events were carried out between 2018 and 2021 to walk through the flow of athletes, the handling of spectators, security arrangements and other matters in advance for each event to be held during the Games.

In 2018, the Tokyo Games organizing committee conducted bidding for 26 contracts, including those tasked with planning the test events, and nine companies, including Dentsu, and one consortium won the bids. The investigation squad suspects multiple companies, including Dentsu, coordinated in advance for the bidding.

The amount of each contract ranged from ¥4 million to ¥60 million with the total exceeding ¥500 million. Who led the alleged bid-rigging? What was the purpose? The full picture must be revealed.

The investigation squad reportedly learned of the alleged bid-rigging while investigating Games-linked corruption cases. Major advertising agency ADK Marketing Solutions Inc. voluntarily reported to the Japan Fair Trade Commission that there had been bid-rigging, under the Antimonopoly Law’s Leniency Program, which reduces or eliminates possible penalties.

The main issue is whether the organizing committee, which launched the bidding, was involved in the suspected bid-rigging. The organizing committee is believed to have created a list of companies expected to participate in the bidding in advance and shared the list with Dentsu. Most of the successful bidders reportedly corresponded to the companies on the list.

Employees of Dentsu and other advertising agencies were temporarily transferred to the organizing committee. A successful bidder must be decided through fair competitive bidding. However, if the organizer and successful bidders colluded to decide the bid winners in advance, it would constitute nothing less than the privatization of the Games.

Regarding the corruption scandals, a former executive board member of the organizing committee has been indicted four times on charges of accepting bribes from Games corporate sponsors. With the emergence of the alleged bid-rigging, public distrust is likely to intensify among people in Japan and abroad.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has also set up a team to investigate the alleged bid-rigging. Some of the contracts in which bid-rigging is suspected to have been involved were funded by the metropolitan government and carried out jointly with the organizing committee. A thorough investigation is needed.

Games athletes gave their all in competitions conducted in a tough environment amid the coronavirus pandemic. There was widespread praise around the world regarding the operation of the Games. The series of scandals tarnishes such efforts and should be strongly condemned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2022)