• Crime & Courts

Aoki executive ‘made 8 requests’ of Tokyo Games board member

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aoki Holdings Inc.’s headquarters in Yokohama.

A senior executive of Aoki Holdings Inc. compiled a list of requests that was handed in 2018 to a then executive member of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, seeking to enable the major business wear retailer to sell official Games merchandise among other requests, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Katsuhisa Ueda, the senior Aoki executive, was arrested by prosecutors Wednesday on suspicion of paying bribes, while Haruyuki Takahashi, the former Games executive board member, was arrested the same day on suspicion of receiving them.

The special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office seized image data showing the request document, comprising eight items including that Aoki would be able to open an official goods store. Prosecutors believe the data supports an allegation that Aoki, the Games’ sponsor, made the request to Takahashi.

Ueda, 40, admitted to prosecutors that the Aoki side had provided funds to Takahashi, 78, and also said that the company “has made requests related to the Olympics.”

However, Ueda also said, “My awareness of our giving him [the funds] doesn’t extend to it being related to his executive duties.”

According to a statement from the special investigation unit, Takahashi was allegedly requested by then Aoki Chairman Hironori Aoki — also arrested Wednesday on suspicion of bribery — and others to give the company preferential treatment in such matters as a sponsorship agreement and deals on the production and sale of licensed products, and in exchange, Aoki’s side deposited a total of ¥51 million into the account of a Tokyo-based consulting firm linked to Takahashi between October 2017 and March 2022.

The statute of limitations for charges of giving bribes is three years, and therefore the arrest charge on the Aoki side involves bribery amounting to ¥28 million, the amount provided between September 2019 and March this year.

According to sources, the Aoki chairman instructed Ueda to compile the requests for Takahashi after signing a contract with the consulting company in September 2017. Ueda allegedly compiled eight requests in the document. They included Aoki being able to make official attire for athletes to wear at the Games’ opening ceremony and other events, sell officially licensed products, open a store to sell them and launch a promotion campaign featuring star athletes.

The chairman met Takahashi at a restaurant in Tokyo in September 2018 and handed him the document listing these requests, sources said.

After his arrest, Takahashi has continued to deny the allegation that he accepted a bribe, claiming “the money provided was a consulting fee unrelated to the Olympics.”

Former Chairman Aoki, 83, has told prosecutors, “The money was not paid in relation to Takahashi’s role as a Games executive board member, and it was not a bribe.”