(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda was charged as part of a French corruption probe into the awarding of the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo, a person familiar with the matter said. Takeda, however, insisted that he hadn’t been indicted.
The charges against Takeda, who led Tokyo’s successful bid, were filed Dec. 10, said the person, asking not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing. French investigators suspect Japan was picked in 2013 following unspecified secret arrangements aimed at obtaining the votes of African members of the International Olympic Committee.
Takeda said he hasn’t been indicted and ordered to face trial. That doesn’t contradict reports that he was charged. In French probes, charges are an intermediate procedure known as “mise en examen” that is triggered when there are “serious and consistent” indications showing likely involvement in the matter under investigation.
The 71-year-old confirmed he had been interrogated by an investigative magistrate in Paris and said he cooperated with the probe. Stephane Bonifassi, a lawyer for Takeda, declined to comment further.
French investigators said more than two years ago that they were probing S$2.8 million ($2.1 million) in payments made to a Singapore company called “Black Tidings” by a Japanese bank just before the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2020 Games to Tokyo. The payments were labeled “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid.”
Japanese officials have previously denied any wrongdoing in the city’s bid and Takeda says he took a similar stance when he was interrogated last month.
“I explained that the bid committee paid a fair price based on a consulting contract with Black Tiding and that nothing was done that could amount to wrongdoing such as bribery,” Takeda said in the statement, received via the Japanese Olympic Committee.
Le Monde newspaper reported the charges earlier on Friday.
In France, investigative magistrates can decide to charge companies or individuals in a procedure known as “mise en examen” when there are “serious and consistent” indications showing likely involvement in the matter under investigation. They can then decide whether to refer a case to trial, but aren’t involved after that stage.
The French charges are the latest in a series of scandals to hit the IOC. In the run-up to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, 20 members of the committee were either expelled or sanctioned over accusations of bribery to win the games for the U.S. city. A recent history of chronic cost overruns and widespread sanctions for doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games further tarnished the Games’ reputation, to the point that just two countries bid for the 2022 Winter Games, which were awarded to Beijing.
The IOC in Switzerland said that it is cooperating with the French authorities and has opened its own investigation.
“These allegations refer to events before the IOC introduced far reaching reforms,” the International Olympic Committee said in an statement, which added that they were plaintiffs in the case in France.
The payments made to the Singapore account was discovered 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. That led French authorities to open a new investigation in late 2015 after uncovering significant purchases in Paris funded by Black Tidings, and after getting further information from the International Association of Athletics Federations and the press.
Representatives for France’s financial prosecutor, the Parquet National Financier, declined to comment.
News of the charges against Takeda come amid heightened tensions between France and Japan. Fallen car executive Carlos Ghosn has been detained in a Japanese prison for almost two months over allegations he under-reported his compensation and transferred personal trading losses to Nissan Motor Co.
(Adds statement from Takeda starting in third paragraph.)
--With assistance from Hugo Miller and Isabel Reynolds.
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