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JOC chief denies wrongdoing in Tokyo 2020 bid as French authorities launch criminal probe

Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, is pictured at the committee's headquarters in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward in this May 23, 2018 file photo. (Mainichi)

BRUSSELS -- French authorities have begun criminal procedures against Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President Tsunekazu Takeda over alleged illicit activities connected to the Tokyo 2020 Games bid, according to multiple French press reports citing judicial authorities. Takeda issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

According to AFP and Le Monde newspaper, the 71-year-old Takeda was placed under "preliminary investigation," conducted before a formal trial, on Dec. 10 last year. French authorities are apparently probing whether part of a $2.3-million payment made by the Tokyo Games bid committee -- dissolved in 2014 -- to a Singapore-based consulting firm was passed on to individuals associated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s selection of the host city. Takeda headed the bid committee.

In a comment released on Jan. 11, Takeda said, "I submitted to a hearing before a judge in charge in Paris as a form of cooperation with the probe. The bid committee paid legitimate compensation based on a consultancy contract. I explained that we did nothing irregular that would constitute bribery."

French authorities have been investigating allegations of wrongdoing by the Rio de Janeiro bid for the 2016 games, and Tokyo's for the 2020 event.

According to AFP and other reports, French authorities have indicted former IOC member and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Lamine Diack from Senegal on bribe-taking charges over the Rio Games. They also issued an arrest warrant for Diack's son and placed him on an international wanted list through the Interpol, but the Senegalese government has refused to hand him over. The son was reportedly a friend of the owner of the consulting firm in Singapore that was paid by the Japanese bid committee.

Tokyo won the right to hold the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in a 2013 IOC vote, beating out Madrid and Istanbul.

(Japanese original by Kosuke Hatta, Brussels Bureau)

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