- Prosecutors look at S$2.8 million payments made in 2013
- Transfers went from account in Japanese bank to Singapore firm
French financial prosecutors are probing S$2.8 million ($2 million) in payments made to a Singapore account from a Japanese bank just before the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2020 Games to Tokyo, casting suspicions on the winning bid.
The investigation opened Dec. 24 after authorities were alerted to transfers made in July and October 2013 from the unspecified Japanese bank to a company called ‘Black Tidings’ in Singapore, according to a statement Thursday. The payments were labeled ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid.’ Japanese officials deny any wrongdoing in the city’s bid.
The discovery was made as part of a separate French case looking into allegations of corruption and money laundering linked to a cover-up of Russian athletes’ doping by international sports officials, prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.
French authorities opened the new investigation after uncovering significant purchases in Paris funded by ‘Black Tidings,’ and after getting information from the International Association of Athletics Federations and the press, according to the office of the country’s financial prosecutor.
Japan’s top government spokesman earlier on Thursday said the country’s bidding process for the 2020 Olympics was “clean,” brushing off a report by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper that its bid team allegedly made a 1.3 million euro ($1.5 million) payment to an account linked to the son of the former IAAF chief, Lamine Diack.
French police are investigating, the Guardian said, without revealing the source of the information. The transactions under suspicion allegedly were made by the bid team, or those acting on its behalf, directly to a secret bank account in Singapore linked to Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack, the newspaper reported.
The spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said that he wasn’t aware of any investigation by French authorities and had no intention of looking into the matter.
“Our understanding is that the bidding process for the Tokyo games was clean,” Suga told reporters in Tokyo. “Either way, if there are any requests from the French legal authorities, we would respond accordingly.”
The Tokyo Olympics have been plagued with problems. The original plan to build a futuristic main stadium designed by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped after public criticism over ballooning costs. This was followed by accusations that the designer of the logo for the Games plagiarized the emblem of a Belgian playhouse, forcing the organizing committee to select a new design last month.
Earlier, the Games’ organizers said the games were awarded to Tokyo because it had the best bid.
“The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has no means of knowing these allegations,” spokeswoman Hikariko Ono said by e-mail when asked to comment on the newspaper report. “We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid.”
In a separate Japanese statement, Ono said the committee’s understanding of the matter is entirely different from what the newspaper reported.
Diack’s legal representatives didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment on the allegations. The Guardian didn’t publish a comment from the Diacks or their representatives, reporting that Diack is in France and his son is in Senegal.
Authorities are becoming more active in investigating global sports bodies awarding of hosting and broadcast rights to events such as the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup. Much of the leadership of FIFA, which oversees soccer, was replaced in the last few years in bribery investigations.
The IOC had an earlier bribery crisis. Six delegates were expelled and four others resigned after investigations into improper gifts or benefits given as part of the award of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City, Utah.