Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda said it was his call to approve the more than $2 million payment to Singaporean consulting firm Black Tidings in connection with Tokyo’s winning bid to host the 2020 Games.
“I approved it in the end,” Takeda said Monday of the money, which was paid in two installments in the months leading up Tokyo’s bid victory in September 2013. “It was done by the book. … The bid office carefully examined it, and I signed off on it in the end.”
Takeda, however, denied he took an active role in securing the contract with Black Tidings, a company linked to disgraced former International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack.
Takeda said he was frequently out of the country campaigning as head of Tokyo’s bid and had left the matter in the hands of other officials.
“I never met them and I never reviewed it,” said Takeda, who refused to divulge details of the contract to a Diet inquiry, citing a confidentiality agreement.
“I was told by the bid office this was necessary. In cases that are brought to me like this, I listen and then I sign. There’s no question I approved it, but while adhering strictly to the regulations.”
The JOC meanwhile said an investigation panel made up of third-party lawyers was launched Monday to scrutinize the deal with Black Tidings.
Diack, who at the height of his influence was a power broker in Olympic circles, has been accused by French prosecutors of taking more than €1 million (¥122 million) to cover up positive drug tests by Russian athletes.
Diack is based in France and has yet to publicly comment on the allegations. Black Tidings is headed by Ian Tan Tong Han, who is known to be close to Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack.
The French prosecution is looking into approximately €130,000 spent on jewelry in Paris by Papa Massata Diack around the time of the first payment.
Masato Mizuno, CEO of the Tokyo bid team and the former president of sports apparel giant Mizuno Corp., has denied any knowledge of the payment.
Takeda, the great-grandson of Emperor Meiji, said he was not aware of the younger Diack’s suspected ties to Black Tidings.
“There was no way of knowing about the kind of questionable relationship that is being reported,” Takeda said.