Japan prosecutors arrest former member of Olympic panel over suspected graft

FILE PHOTO: The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi, wearing a protective face mask following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen during Tokyo 2020 Executive Board Meeting in Tokyo, Japan March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Pool

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japanese prosecutors arrested a former member of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics board, Haruyuki Takahashi, on Wednesday on suspicion of receiving bribes, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said.

Takahashi was not immediately available for comment and did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that he was suspected of receiving bribes amounting to hundreds of billions of yen from the clothing retailer Aoki Holdings.

Former chairman of Aoki Holdings, Hironori Aoki, and two other executives linked to the company were also arrested in connection with the case, according to the prosecutor's office.

Reuters was not able to contact Aoki to ask for comment. Aoki Holdings said in a statement it was fully cooperating with prosecutors but could not comment further as the investigation was ongoing.

Media previously reported that investigators were looking into whether payments of 45 million yen ($325,544), made between 2017 and 2021 to a company run by Takahashi, violated a law that prohibits public servants from taking money in relation to their positions.

As part of the investigation, prosecutors conducted a string of raids in late July, including at Takahashi's home and the office of advertising giant Dentsu Group.

Takahashi is a former executive of Dentsu Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dentsu Group.

Dentsu Inc was fully cooperating with the investigation, a spokesperson said.

Reuters reported in 2020 that Takahashi, who was paid millions of dollars to work on Tokyo's successful bid for the Olympics, said he played a key role in securing the support of a former Olympics powerbroker who was later suspected by French prosecutors of taking bribes to help Japan's bid.

Takahashi told Reuters at that time his work included lobbying International Olympic Committee member Lamine Diack who he gave gifts, including digital cameras and a Seiko watch.

Takahashi said then that there was nothing improper with the payments he received or with the way he used the money.

Diack died at the age of 88 last year.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Rocky Swift, and Sakura Murakami; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel and Toby Chopra)

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