The scandal-hit Japan Sumo Association says it will aim to hold the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in May and vowed to expedite its investigation into match-fixing, sources said.
The announcement came after a special investigative panel informed the JSA board during a meeting Tuesday at the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena of its plans to break an impasse in the ongoing probe and conclude the first stage of investigations by mid-March.
The deadlock pertains to sumo figures who have not cooperated in the probe, including by surrendering their cell phones, which may have text messages regarding match-fixing.
“It seems like the panel has decided when to end the investigation process and is trying to hurry it up,” said JSA board member Tomozuna, who attended the meeting. “Probably the process will end in the first half of March — in three weeks or so.”
The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March was canceled after the match-fixing scandal broke Feb. 2, when text messages from several wrestlers’ cell phones implying bouts had been rigged were discovered amid the probe into sumo figures engaged in illegal, underworld-linked, gambling on professional baseball.
JSA Chairman Hanaregoma said earlier this month there will be no tournament until the investigation is concluded.
On Tuesday, the JSA decided to consider handing out lighter penalties — an idea put forth by the investigative panel — for wrestlers if they come clean about their involvement in match-fixing.
The decision is aimed at breaking the deadlock on the investigative panel’s probe of 14 sumo wrestlers and elders implicated in the rigged bouts.
Of the 14, Chiyohakuho, Enatsukasa and sumo elder Takenawa, formerly Kasuganishiki, have confessed to match-fixing, while the panel earlier this month determined that Kiyoseumi was also guilty, based on incriminating text messages.
Only seven of the 14 have complied with the panel’s request to submit their mobile phones. Three others have submitted phones that are broken.
To make matters worse, mobile phone companies have turned down the panel’s request to retrieve text messages, saying it would be an invasion of customer privacy and because the request does not come from a law enforcement authority.
“We are in a desperate situation,” said Shigeru Ito, who heads the investigative panel and holds a special position at Waseda University.
“We need cooperation from sumo wrestlers and elders. We must gather information from various sources in our probe. Mobile phones hold the key to tackling the issue (for possible evidence of match-fixing), but look what is going on (with wrestlers not responding to the panel’s request).”
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