TOKYO (AP) — An executive at Japanese publishing house Kadokawa was found guilty Tuesday of bribing a former Tokyo Olympics organizing committee member.
Toshiyuki Yoshihara, charged with paying 69 million yen ($463,000) to Haruyuki Takahashi, was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for four years. That means he avoids prison, as long as he doesn’t break the law in the next four years.
Tokyo District Court Presiding Judge Yoshihisa Nakao said Yoshihara wanted Kadokawa to have an edge in becoming a sponsor, which he believed would enhance its brand power.
“The belief in the fairness of the Games has been damaged,” Nakao said, stressing Yoshihara knew the payments were illegal and sought to disguise them as consulting fees.
The punishment was suspended because Yoshihara had expressed remorse, and his wife had promised to watch over him, Nakao said.
Yoshihara said, “Yes,” once, in accepting the verdict, but otherwise said nothing, and bowed repeatedly as he left the courtroom.
The verdict for Yoshihara, arrested last year, was the latest in a series of bribery trials over sponsorships and licensing for products for the Tokyo Games.
Kadokawa Group was chosen as a sponsor and published the Games program and guidebooks.
The ballooning scandal has marred the Olympic image in Japan, denting Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Games.
An official announcement on the bid is expected Wednesday, after the mayor meets with Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, a judo gold medalist and IOC member, a Sapporo city official said.
At the center of the scandal is Takahashi, a former executive at advertising company Dentsu, who joined the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee in 2014, and had great influence in arranging sponsorships for the Games. Takahashi says he is innocent. His trial is yet to begin.
Fifteen people at five companies face trial in the bribery scandal. The other companies are Aoki Holdings, a clothing company that outfitted Japan’s Olympic team, Daiko Advertising Inc., Sun Arrow, which made the mascots, and ADK, an advertising company.
An official at a consultant company called Amuse was given a suspended sentence in July after being convicted of helping Takahashi receive bribes in return for a part of the money.
Given the various allegations, the money that went to Takahashi totaled some 200 million yen ($1.3 million).
In Tuesday’s trial, Yoshihara was accused of working with Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, a top official at Kadokawa, the son of the founder and a major figure in Japan’s movie and entertainment industry, as well as with Kyoji Maniwa, another senior official at Kadokawa.
Maniwa, accused of depositing the money to Takahashi’s account, was given a suspended sentence in June. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa also faces trial.
In April, Aoki’s founder Hironori Aoki and two other company officials were convicted of handing 28 million yen ($188,000) in bribes to Takahashi and received suspended sentences.
In July, the former head of ADK, Shinichi Ueno, was given a suspended sentence after a conviction of paying 14 million yen ($94,000) to Takahashi.
The organizing committee members, as quasi-public officials, are forbidden from accepting money or goods from those seeking favors. Those receiving bribes are generally given harsher verdicts in Japan than those paying them.
The Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yuri Kageyama is on X, formerly Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games