(ATR) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe orders full cooperation with the French investigation into possible influence peddling by the Tokyo bid for the 2020 Olympics.
French prosecutors confirmed last week they are investigating payments made in 2013 from Tokyo 2020 to a previously unheard of Olympic bid consultant.
Approximately $2 million apparently was paid to a company run by a Singaporean named Ian Tan Tong Han for a range of services for the bid. Unknown to other professionals in the Olympic bid business as well as journalists covering bids, Tan has yet to make any public statements about his involvement with the Tokyo bid.
Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, who led the bid, defends the spending as a "legitimate business expense". He says Tan offered expertise with Africa and the Arab world.
But Takeda, Japan’s solitary IOC member, is so far unable to explain how Tan, a consultant with no known track record on the Olympics, was selected for such a lucrative contract. The French suspect it might have something to do with the now disgraced Lamine Diack, the former president of the IAAF, and son Papa Massata Diack, a friend of Tan.
Details of the Tokyo deal have emerged from unrelated inquiries that led to Diack’s downfall in the past year. He is facing allegations that he extorted bribes from Russian athletes to avoid exposing positive drug tests. Son Papa Massata is suspected as one of the go-betweens in this purported deal-making. The father is under house arrest in France. The son is battling extradition from Senegal. French officials want to talk to him about his activities as a marketing officer at the IAAF during his father’s tenure.
In his first comments since the Tokyo allegations surfaced, Papa Massata Diack denied this weekend that he or his father profited in any way from the arrangement between Tokyo and his friend Ian Tan.
Diack spoke in Dakar to a journalist from Kyodo News but refused to allow his remarks to be recorded.
"Let them investigate. … I have nothing to hide," Diack is quoted. He professed to know nothing about his friend’s work for Tokyo. And he insisted that Tokyo won the 2020 bid fairly, without needing to buy votes. Istanbul and Madrid were the other contenders.
French investigators have yet to question Takeda or other bid leaders, Around the Rings is told. When they do, the prime minister is demanding their cooperation according to Japanese news agency Jiji.
"The Minister of Education and Sports (Hiroshi) Hase told the Japanese Olympic Committee and former bid committee to cooperate with the investigation," Abe said, according to Jiji.
Also watching developments with the French investigation is the IOC, which has asked the IOC Ethics Commission to follow the case. If wrongdoing is uncovered, however, sanctions can only be levied against individuals associated with the Olympics.
The Diacks are officially estranged, Lamine even resigning his honorary IOC membership last year to escape disciplinary action. Consultant Tan could be banned from participating as a registered consultant as is now required by the IOC.
That leaves Takeda and the JOC as the parties most vulnerable to any action the IOC Ethics Commission, should that be necessary.
The story of possible influence peddling involving the Tokyo bid is attracting press attention in Japan, the first hint of any scandal since the bid launched five years ago.
Media outside Japan are starting to cover the story too, not always accurately. A news ticker on the U.S. Fox News tv channel Monday repeatedly misidentified Lamine Diack as the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Written by Ed Hula.