• Kyodo News


The Japan Sumo Association said Monday it will move to expel ozeki Kotomitsuki for betting on pro baseball games and ax stablemaster Otake for borrowing vast sums from the wrestler to pay his own gambling debts.

An executive board of the association — the sport’s governing body — meanwhile said the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament will start July 11 as scheduled, after the association accepted conditions laid out by a special oversight panel investigating the illegal gambling rocking the national sport.

NHK, the only broadcaster to televise sumo, said it will decide Sunday whether to follow through with a threat not to cover the Nagoya tournament, which has already seen its top sponsor pull out.

Kotomitsuki, 34, who holds sumo’s second-highest rank in the top division, admitted to the association in mid-June that he had gambled on baseball.

He tried to collect ¥5 million in winnings through an intermediary and allegedly paid ¥3.5 million in hush money to Mitsutomo Furuichi, the older brother of an active wrestler. Furuichi, described as a former mobster who reportedly tried to squeeze another ¥100 million from the ozeki to no avail, was arrested last week.

Kotomitsuki was promoted to ozeki in July 2007.

The association said wrestlers and sumo elders implicated in the gambling ring, which earlier reports alleged is run by the underworld, will face stern disciplinary action after the association’s board meets Sunday.

Facing suspensions are 15 wrestlers and 12 sumo elders, including four members of the association’s board of directors.

Otake borrowed between ¥20 million to ¥30 million from Kotomitsuki because the stablemaster was hobbled with debts he had accumulated from illegal gambling, sources said Monday.

The 42-year-old stablemaster, whose ring name was Takatoriki, tendered his resignation to the association Monday, but it wasn’t accepted, apparently because the association plans to fire him.

The panel said Sunday it will call on the sumo body to suspend association Chairman Musashigawa as a gesture of taking responsibility for the scandal.

The sources in the association said the panel is set to name Hiroyoshi Murayama, a former Tokyo High Prosecutor’s Office chief who is now a board member outside the association, as a substitute for Musashigawa if he is suspended.

The third-party panel is asking that the 15 wrestlers who gambled on baseball be barred from the Nagoya event and that nine conditions be met to go forward with the 15-day tournament, or “basho.”

Kotomitsuki and Tokitsukaze may be fired from sumo without severance packages.

Otake said the ¥5 million Kotomitsuki requested from an intermediary was money he won from gambling on baseball, the sources said.

The panel is also requesting that the association board close the Otake and Tokitsukaze stables.

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