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Legitimacy of consulting fees focus of probe into Olympics bribery allegations

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hiroshi Hase emphasized that consultants held a crucial role in making a successful bid for the Olympics and Paralympics.

    He made the remark in reference to alleged payments that may have been used to influence Tokyo's winning bid for the 2020 Olympics.

    Hase told a news conference following a Cabinet meeting on May 17 the importance of gathering information on voting trends among IOC member states, saying, "Consultants play an extremely important role in obtaining (such) information." Hase was chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Headquarters for the Action Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games when Tokyo won the bid in September 2013.

    Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) Chairman Tsunekazu Takeda, who had headed Tokyo's bid committee, has been grilled in the budget committees of both the House of Representatives and House of Councillors. In an effort to get to the bottom of the scandal, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has also set up its own investigative team. One of the focal points of the investigation is whether there was a need to spend such massive amounts of money on an overseas consultant.

    From Diet hearings thus far, it has emerged that the Tokyo Olympic bidding committee signed a contract with Ian Tan Tong Han, head of the Singaporean company Black Tidings, on July 1, 2013, and paid him a total of around 230 million yen in consulting fees. The decision was made with the blessing of Japanese advertising behemoth Dentsu Inc., because of Ian Tan's strong connections to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), which had about 10 votes in the 2020 host city poll.

    However, no convincing explanations have been given regarding allegations that Tan was closely linked to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF president and then IOC member Lamine Diack.

    Then JOC chairman Takeda initially said that he had no way of knowing about those ties. At a meeting of the DP's investigative team, however, JOC secretary-general Eisuke Hiraoka stated, "There's no way that we would pay over 200 million yen to someone who has no connections." Subsequently, Takeda was forced to clarify, "Obviously, Mr. Tan and Mr. Diack knew each other. But we didn't know that they were as close as they've been reported to be."

    The next focal point in determining the legitimacy of the contract between the Tokyo bidding committee and Tan will be public disclosure of the contract and Tan's activities reports.

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