A Japanese court on Friday sentenced the former chairman of business suit retailer Aoki Holdings Inc. to a suspended prison term for bribing a Tokyo Olympic organizing committee executive in connection with the games in 2021.
The Tokyo District Court gave Hironori Aoki, 84, a prison term of two-and-a-half years, suspended for four years, for paying 28 million yen ($209,000) to Haruyuki Takahashi, 79, who exerted influence over the committee's marketing division.
The ruling was the first in a series of bribery cases involving Takahashi, who has been charged with accepting bribes from Aoki and others in return for helping companies to be selected as Olympic sponsors or marketing agents.
The crime "harmed society's trust in the fair management of the Tokyo Games," Presiding Judge Kenji Yasunaga said in handing down the ruling.
Aoki's brother and the company's former vice chairman Takahisa Aoki, 77, was sentenced to 18 months, while Katsuhisa Ueda, 41, a former executive director, was given one year, both suspended for three years.
Prosecutors had demanded a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for the former chairman and prison terms of 18 months and one year for Takahisa Aoki and Ueda, respectively.
The judge said Takahashi was in a position to exercise considerable influence, after he was entrusted with marketing by the chief of the organizing committee at the time Yoshiro Mori, 85, a former prime minister.
The three former Aoki Holdings officials became aware of his influence when dining with Mori and in conversations with committee staff. They relied on Takahashi and resorted to bribery in order to make a large profit for the company, Yasunaga said.
Recognizing Hironori Aoki's leading role in the crime, Yasunaga said the former chairman "bears a grave criminal responsibility," citing actions such as his order to destroy documents after becoming aware of an investigation.
However, the three were given suspended sentences as they had admitted to the charges and expressed remorse for their actions, the judge said.
According to the ruling, the former officials approached Takahashi to ensure that their company was selected as an Olympic sponsor and quickly got a contract that included the rights for providing the uniforms for the Japanese team's athletes.
They sent the money between September 2019 and March last year to a consulting firm headed by Takahashi, according to the ruling.
Takahashi was indicted in September for receiving a total 51 million yen from the suit retailer, but the three were indicted for paying 28 million yen as the statute of limitations for giving a bribe is three years.
Takahashi has been indicted four times on charges of receiving bribes but has denied the allegations. His trial date has yet to be determined.
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