Takahashi used connections to ‘line his own pockets’

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Officials from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad wait to enter Haruyuki Takahashi’s home in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, on July 26.

Prosecutors have effectively wrapped up their investigation into a former executive board member of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee for allegedly accepting bribes worth almost ¥200 million. But as Haruyuki Takahashi continues to protest his innocence in this high-profile case, an all-out battle looms between his defense lawyers and prosecutors.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has arrested Takahashi four times since Aug. 17 on suspicion of receiving bribes from various companies. As a quasi civil servant, Takahashi was not allowed to receive gifts or money in connection with his role on the committee. Multiple sources close to the office insisted the investigation had been worthwhile.

“He ensured that companies desperate to become involved in Olympic-related business were able to do so,” one source said. “In return, he lined his own pockets. We were able to ring the alarm about improper practices that affected the very core of the Games.”

Takahashi, 78, allegedly received bribes through five channels.

Prosecutors opted for indictment on the charge of accepting a bribe for a specified act, which carries a statutory punishment of seven years or less imprisonment. This is a heavier penalty than for simple bribery, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors took this step because they viewed very seriously Takahashi’s alleged reception of individual, specific requests for selection as a sponsor or to be screened for a contract for selling official merchandise. They also cast a cold eye on Takahashi’s alleged use of his influence to lean on personnel seconded to the committee from major advertising agency Dentsu Inc., which was the exclusive marketing agency for the Games.

Takahashi allegedly made publishing company Kadokawa Corp. and advertising agency Daiko Advertising Inc. transfer money to a consulting firm headed by Kazumasa Fukami, who was a junior colleague of Takahashi during his days at Dentsu. Fukami, 73, has been indicted on suspicion of receiving bribes.

Takahashi also had major advertising company ADK Holdings Inc. and soft toy manufacturer Sun Arrow Inc. send money to a dormant company run by Joji Matsui, 75. Matsui, who has known Takahashi since they were students at Keio University, has been indicted without arrest on suspicion of receiving the bribes.

The special investigation squad believes Takahashi intentionally used his acquaintances’ companies to conceal the flow of money.

“It’s extremely unscrupulous,” a senior prosecutor said. “Given the size of the bribes, I think they merit a prison sentence.”

‘Legitimate consulting fees’

However, ever since his first arrest, Takahashi has unswervingly insisted that the money provided by those companies had nothing to do with his position as an executive board member. He has completely denied all the charges made against him.

The first trial for three people indicted on suspicion of bribery in this case, including Hironori Aoki, former chairman of menswear chain Aoki Holdings Inc., is set to start on Dec. 22. This will move the stage for this case to the courtroom. During the trial, the biggest point of contention will be whether the money provided was a gratuity for Takahashi’s assistance while he was on the organizing committee.

Prosecutors have acquired objective evidence such as notes, emails and internal documents from those companies that indicate they made requests of Takahashi. Combined with testimony from organizing committee senior officials that Takahashi pressured them to use their influence, the prosecutors are preparing to prove that this was “thank you money” given to Takahashi in connection with his work.

Takahashi has denied the payments were bribes, and claims the money was for “legitimate consulting fees” and other purposes. Takahashi also is expected to claim he doesn’t remember receiving any of the money that was given to Fukami and Matsui’s companies. He likely will assert that the two men were not civil servants and that the money was a simple transaction between private businesses and does not constitute a bribe.