Tokyo Olympics tarnished by bid-rigging, bribery lawsuits more than 2 years after Games were called off

TOKYO (AP) - Bid-rigging trial all around tokyo olympics Advertising giant Dentsu and five other companies were charged with criminal offenses in a Japanese court on Tuesday, more than two years after the game was shut down.

Seven individuals are also facing charges from Tokyo district prosecutors in the cases, including Koji Henami, who oversaw the sports division at Dentsu at the time.

Executive or management-level executives of each of the accused companies and Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee official Yasuo Mori have been charged with violating antimonopoly laws.

The companies charged include Dentsu Group, Hakuhodo, Tokyu Agency and event organizer Serespo. All events are related to organizing, sports promotion or marketing.

Dentsu has a long history of sponsorship and advertising with bodies such as World Athletics, headed by Sebastian Coe, and the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee, headed by Thomas Bach.

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Henami's lawyer Genta Yoshino did not deny bid rigging. Speaking in the Tokyo District Court, he said no bidding process was ever decided or established by the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee.

"Even if what happened is classified as bid-rigging, my client followed the intentions of the organizing committee, followed their instructions," Yoshino told the court, presiding over the three-judge panel.

Yoshino said his client tried his best to make the Olympics a success. Yoshino said Henmei was under pressure from the IOC, which had repeatedly expressed doubts about the competence of Tokyo organizers.

At that time the organizing committee was led by Yoshiro Mori, former Japanese Prime Minister Who was ultimately forced to resign as head of Tokyo 2020. The CEO was Toshiro Muto, a former deputy director of the Bank of Japan.

The maximum penalty for a company found guilty of bid-rigging is a fine of up to 500 million yen ($3.3 million). If a person is found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 5 million yen ($33,000).

Trials in Japan take months, sometimes years. The next session of the trial was scheduled for January 15, 2024. It is not clear when the decision will come.

Once the Olympics landed in Tokyo, Dentsu became the main marketing arm of the Games and raised a record $3.3 billion in local sponsorship. Dentsu received a commission on sales – sales which were at least double those of any previous Olympics.

Tokyo organizers say they spent $13 billion to stage the 2020 Olympics, which were delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a government audit suggests the spending could be double this. At least 60% was public funding.

The Tokyo scandal ruined the northern city of Sapporo's chances of making the 2030 Winter Olympics. It was a strong favorite but was forced to withdraw. The IOC said last week that it supports French Alps bid for 2030 Games Salt Lake City is the preferred option for 2034.

In the wake of the scandal, Dentsu has been banned from bidding on contracts by the Tokyo metropolitan government and Osaka city and local prefecture, which is hosting the 2025 World Expo.

Tokyo prosecutors are also investigating a separate bribery scandal, which centers on former Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi. Takahashi was a member of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee and had powerful influence on Olympic business.

Takahashi's trial is set to begin on December 14. He has not publicly admitted guilt, or made any statement, and there is speculation that he will fight the charges.

The scandal involving Takahashi includes allegations of bribery over Olympic sponsorships that were won by companies such as Aoki Holdings, the clothing company that dresses Japan's Olympic team, and Sun Arrow, which makes Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic mascots.

Some company executives have already been convicted, but did not receive jail sentences. Almost all criminal trials in Japan result in guilty verdicts. The defense, including Henmi, is trying to protect the client's reputation and minimize any fines.

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