A former chairman and two other senior officials of major business suit retailer Aoki Holdings Inc. admitted in court Thursday to having bribed a former Tokyo Olympic organizing committee executive to become a sponsor for the sporting event held last year.
Hironori Aoki, 84, along with two others, has been charged with providing a total of 28 million yen ($210,000) to Haruyuki Takahashi, 78, who had influence over the committee's marketing division, charged with sponsorship selection.
The Tokyo District Court hearing for Aoki, his brother and the firm's former vice chairman Takahisa Aoki, 76, as well as Katsuhisa Ueda, 41, an executive director, is the first related to a series of bribery cases involving Takahashi and companies over Olympics sponsorships. Fifteen people have so far been indicted.
Takahashi was a former senior managing director of Japan's largest advertising agency Dentsu Inc., which had sent many of its employees to the committee's marketing division. In the trial, prosecutors alleged that he relentlessly communicated with them over sponsor selection.
Prosecutors also said former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, 85, who was chief of the organizing committee, had entrusted Takahashi with finding sponsors.
According to the indictment, between January 2017 and June 2021, the three officials requested Takahashi to select their company as an Olympics sponsor and quickly get them a contract, which would include preferential rights over providing official outfits for the Japanese team's athletes.
The three were arrested on suspicion of providing cash to Takahashi on more than 30 occasions between September 2019 and March this year, totaling 28 million yen.
Takahashi allegedly was paid 51 million yen in total, but the charges for payments made before that period were dropped since the three-year statute of limitations had expired.
Although prosecutors say that the deal signed on September 2017 between Aoki's company and a consulting firm headed by Takahashi constitutes a bribe, the latter claims that he is innocent of bribery and only received legitimate consulting fees.
Takahashi is suspected of being involved in other bribery cases, including those with stuffed toy maker Sun Arrow Inc., and has been indicted four times, with the total bribes allegedly reaching 196 million yen.