PARIS - The president of Japan's Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, is under formal investigation by French prosecutors for suspected corruption related to Japan's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, a French judicial source said on Friday.
The source said Takeda, a retired equestrian sportsman, was indicted last month by the national financial prosecutor's office in Paris. Prosecuting judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke suspected Takeda of paying bribes to secure Japan's winning bid.
In Tokyo, Takeda said no improper actions such as bribery had taken place in connection with Tokyo's games bid and he had not been indicted by French authorities.
Under French law, indictment means he is now being treated as a "formal suspect" but a full indictment comes only once the case is going to court.
"I apologize for the huge worries that have been brought to the people of Japan, who have given so much support to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and in order to put every doubt to rest I intend to continue cooperating with investigations," he said.
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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had been in close contact with French judicial authorities. Its ethics committee has opened a file on the case and would meet later on Friday.
"Mr Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence," the IOC said in a statement.
Takeda is also an IOC member since 2012 and heads its marketing commission.
In 2016, French prosecutors announced an investigation into more than $2 million of payments made by the Japanese bidding committee to a Singaporean consultancy firm, Black Tidings.
In 2017, Takeda and several others were voluntarily questioned by Japanese prosecutors at the request of French authorities in relation to the payments, Kyodo News agency reported at the time. Takeda and the others had denied any wrongdoing, Kyodo said.
Black Tidings is headed by Ian Tan Tong Hon, who is closely associated with Papa Massata Diack, the son of disgraced former international athletics chief Lamine Diack, who is himself facing corruption charges.
Japanese officials said at the time the two payments were legitimate consultant’s fees, and a panel commissioned by the Japanese Olympic Committee said in September 2016 that it had found the payments to be legitimate.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said she was "very surprised" by the news of the investigation.
Takeda, 71, has long been involved in the Olympics movement, having competed as a show jumper in the 1972 and 1976 games. His great-grandfather was the Emperor Meiji and he is the current emperor’s second cousin.
He has been a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee since 1987 and its president since 2001, helping to coordinate the preparations for several Winter Olympics as a senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Takeda attended a ceremony in Tokyo on Friday along with former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020, according to Mori’s office.