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Top Japan Lacrosse official dismissed over embezzlement

The 48-year-old executive director of the Japan Lacrosse Association (JLA) was dismissed as of April 2 over accusations that he embezzled about 10 million yen from the sport's Japanese governing body, it has been learned.

    The irregularities came to light during an external audit carried out as part of work to change the association's legal status from voluntary organization to general corporation, sources said. The man admitted to embezzling operation funds from the Tokyo-based association and subsequently returned all of the money, the sources added, while association President Hiroshi Kimura also resigned to take responsibility on April 2.

    According to figures close to the association, the man allegedly transferred the operation funds into his private bank account between April 2014 and November 2015. The man was quoted as saying, "I used the money to cover my living expenses."

    The association started work in 2013 to standardize its accounting procedures in order to be incorporated.

    In addition to sloppy accounting, the firm doing the audit also discovered multiple bank accounts with a murky flow of funds. The executive director admitted to the embezzlement in January 2016, the sources said. The bank accounts in question were opened in June 2009, but the association plans not to file a criminal complaint against the now former director because it could find "no other irregularities."

    The association was founded in 1987 with the aim of popularizing lacrosse -- already popular in Canada, the United States and other nations -- and promoting international exchange. The association has since hosted all-Japan championships and all-Japan university championships. It had 16,839 members, mainly university students, as of December 2015. Its main revenue comes from annual registration fees of about 10,000 yen per member.

    The executive director was one of the core members of Japan's first lacrosse team, formed by university students and athletes in the 1980s. He had played a leading role in the association's activities since its founding and he is known in the Japanese lacrosse world as a "driving force" behind the movement to spread the sport. Concurrently serving as secretary-general of the association's headquarters, he had effectively assumed full power over its accounting.

    Following the revelations of the irregularities, the association scrapped the position of executive director, believing that too much authority had been concentrated in that one person. After appointing an auditor-secretary, a position created after the scandal, the association is thoroughly reviewing its accounting procedures ahead of its planned incorporation by the end of fiscal 2016.

    A senior association official said, "We want to make a fresh start without asking for external help and co-sponsors for the games to be held this fiscal year. We, as a fair and transparent sports group, will strive to strengthen governance."

    The former executive director has not responded to queries from the Mainichi Shimbun, but he apologized in a letter addressed to the association, writing, "It will take more than a lifetime to make up for my actions that betrayed the confidence of persons concerned and fostered a negative image of lacrosse. I am very sorry."

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