Sources: Tokyo Games exec asked IOC to expedite approval of Aoki products

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Head office of Aoki Holdings Inc. in Yokohama

Haruyuki Takahashi, the former Tokyo Games organizing committee executive arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes, allegedly asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to expedite its approval of Olympic-related products developed by Aoki Holdings Inc., according to sources.

Takahashi, 78, is alleged to have approached the IOC after asking an executive of the Tokyo organizing committee’s marketing bureau to speed up its screening of products by the major businesswear retailer.

The special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office believes these approaches were part of efforts by Takahashi to give Aoki preferential treatment in Olympic-related projects.

Officially licensed Games products had to be screened and approved by the organizing committee and the IOC. Once a company had gained approval for its products, it signed a licensing contract with the organizing committee that enabled it to sell the items for a designated period.

Aoki was announced as an official Tokyo Games sponsor in 2018. According to sources, Aoki allegedly asked Takahashi for the screening of its products to be conducted swiftly so that the items could be on shop shelves as quickly as possible.

Takahashi allegedly told the marketing executive that the screening should be hurried up. When the executive explained to Takahashi that it was taking time for the products to pass through the approval process at the IOC, Takahashi allegedly contacted the IOC and asked for the process to be expedited, according to the sources.

Aoki’s officially licensed products hit shelves in the summer of 2019, and the company sold a total of about 30,000 items such as suits and jackets bearing the Olympic emblem.

Takahashi was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of accepting bribes totaling ¥51 million on more than 50 occasions from October 2017 to March 2022 in exchange for giving Aoki preferential treatment in Olympic-related projects.

Aoki’s former chairman, Hironori Aoki, 83, and other company executives have been arrested on suspicion of paying bribes.

Takahashi, a former executive at the leading advertising agency Dentsu Inc., had a large network of contacts, including IOC member Sepp Blatter, a former president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA.

In voluntary questioning before his arrest, Takahashi reportedly told the investigation unit he had asked the organizing committee to expedite screening procedures but claimed it was for all officially licensed products. He also said the money he received from Aoki was for “consulting work and was unrelated to Games-related projects.”

According to the sources, the former Aoki chairman has denied paying bribes to Takahashi.