A former executive with the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games pleaded not guilty Thursday in a high-profile bribery case that has rocked the sports and marketing industries since shortly after the delayed Summer Games ended in 2021.

Haruyuki Takahashi, 79, is accused of accepting about ¥200 million in bribes from five major companies to help them be selected as sponsors and marketing agents for the Games. Prosecutors believe Takahashi, also a former senior managing director at advertising giant Dentsu, used his significant influence and connections with prominent figures in the sports industry to finalize the contracts.

“I did not receive bribes as compensation for my duty as a director. It was a consultation as a private entity. In other words, it was a business transaction,” Takahashi told the first trial hearing in his case, which was held in the largest courtroom at the Tokyo District Court.