Tokyo 2020 bribery probe leads investigators to ex-exec’s home, Dentsu office

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigative squad enter the home of a former executive of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday.

The home of a former executive of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, who allegedly received bribes of about ¥45 million from Games sponsor Aoki Holdings Inc., was searched by the special investigative squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Tuesday.

In addition to the residence in Setagaya Ward of Haruyuki Takahashi, a former senior managing director of major advertising agency Dentsu Inc., the investigative squad searched Dentsu headquarters in Minato Ward. The company was responsible for seeking sponsors for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and many of its employees were temporarily transferred to the committee.

Takahashi, 78, stepped down as an adviser to Dentsu in 2011. In June 2014 he became an executive board member of the organizing committee, which was launched in January that year. Dentsu was selected by the committee as a marketing agency to seek sponsors for the Tokyo Games.

Executive board members of the organizing committee are regarded as quasi-civil servants. If these people receive money or gifts in connection with their duties, the action constitutes bribery under the Penal Code. The prosecutors will analyze seized documents to find out how and why the money was provided.

According to sources, Takahashi is believed to have received ¥1 million in monthly consulting fees from Aoki Holdings, a major business attire company based in Yokohama. The payments started from around autumn 2017 and ended around the time the Games concluded in 2021. The payments came through a Tokyo consulting firm where Takahashi serves as president. The amount of money that Takahashi allegedly received totaled at least ¥45 million.

In October 2018, Aoki Holdings became an official supporter, one of the organizing committee’s corporate sponsorship statuses for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The company could then offer officially licensed products, such as suits bearing the Olympic emblem, selling a total of 30,000 such items.

Since this spring, the investigative squad has obtained relevant documents from Aoki Holdings on a voluntary basis and interviewed several company executives, including former Chairman Hironori Aoki, 83. The former chairman admitted that money was provided to Takahashi’s side, reportedly saying, “There were high expectations on Takahashi’s personal capability.”

Another senior official of the company reportedly told prosecutors, “We expected that referrals and advice from Takahashi would facilitate the sale of our licensed products.”

The investigative squad is believed to have decided to launch the probe after finding a lack of actual consulting services provided by Takahashi’s consulting firm to Aoki Holdings, leading to suspicions of bribery in the provision of money.

When contacted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aoki Holdings refrained from answering questions related to the matter.

As for Takahashi, when asked about the matter by The Yomiuri Shimbun, he said that there had been financial transactions between his consulting firm and Aoki Holdings.

“The consulting services were real, and I provided consultation on general sports matters as an official [of the firm],” he said. “In my capacity as a board member of the organizing committee, I was not involved in any conflict of interest whatsoever.”