Sumo betting conduit to mob probed

Bookie 'died year ago'; wrestlers ditch mobile data

Kyodo News

Shady transfers of vast sums have been registered at a bank account held by a former sumo wrestler believed to be a go-between for wrestlers and mobsters involved in baseball gambling, investigative sources said Thursday.

The account records may be evidence of illegal gambling involving wrestlers and elders. The money transfers included what investigators suspect were payments of winnings for bets on professional baseball games, a source of income for the underworld.

The former sumo wrestler has identified a member of a Nagoya-based underworld group linked to Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza syndicate, as a bookie of the illegal gambling and told police the bookie “died about a year ago,” the sources said, adding they are trying to verify this claim. Neither the wrestler, the bookie nor the bank were identified.

The 34-year-old ex-wrestler had belonged to the Onomatsu stable, which is suspected of having played a central role in gambling by wrestlers.

On Wednesday, police raided that stable and others to look for evidence of illegal gambling and confiscated items that included mobile phones and bank passbooks.

Some wrestlers involved in the scandal were also found to have deleted mobile phone records, including their communications with intermediaries for betting on baseball games, according to the sources.

Top-division grappler Kotomitsuki, who held the second-highest rank of ozeki, and stablemaster Otake are alleged to have repeatedly gambled through the Onomatsu stable. The Japan Sumo Association fired the pair last Sunday.

The association meanwhile said Wednesday it won’t present the Emperor’s Cup in a ceremony to congratulate the winner of the upcoming Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

The association voted not to hold the presentation of awards, including the Prime Minister’s Cup, saying doing so would be inappropriate under the circumstances.

The association said it will still award the ¥10 million in prize money to the winner of the 15-day tournament that starts Sunday at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

According to an association representative, it will be the first time the sport’s governing body hasn’t presented the Emperor’s Cup since its debut in 1926. The Prime Minister’s Cup has been awarded since the 1968 New Year’s tournament.

The association said it is unsure if it will hold a victory parade for the winner after the final day of competition July 25.

Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho, the odds-on favorite, won the last two tournaments with perfect 15-0 records and is on a 32-bout winning streak dating back to January.

The pure silver Emperor’s Cup is more than 1 meter tall and weighs 29 kg. The winner returns it on the first day of the following tournament.