Basketball / BJ-League

Rizing Fukuoka president suspected of embezzlement

by Ed Odeven and Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writers

Rizing Fukuoka president Go Takenaka was arrested by Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Saturday along with three current employees of First-Consul, a Tokyo-based consulting company, and a former company employee on suspicion of embezzling ¥380 million.

The alleged illegal activities took place in July and October 2010, media outlets reported on Saturday.

The 36-year-old Takenaka, a certified public accountant, maintains his innocence, according to Rizing executive Shiro Kobayashi. The five suspects have denied the charges, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

“We deeply regret that our president has been arrested and apologize to our clients and others that are associated with us that we gave them a great amount of concern,” Kobayashi said in a statement posted on the bj-league team’s website on Monday.

“Since the case is currently under investigation, we will refrain from making any comments on the details. But our president Takenaka claims that the suspicion is false and intends to explain his place to those who are concerned.

“We are going to report to you when we have new findings, as we would like your understanding on this matter.”

The president of First-Consul allegedly sent the money illegally taken from a company that sells teaching materials to another consulting company which he owns. Then, it’s been alleged, he later transferred the money to First-Consul.

Takenaka became the Rizing’s team president in December 2012.

League spokesman Akihiro Ejima declined to comment when contacted by The Japan Times on Tuesday. The league, however, posted a statement the same day on its website.

“As the bj-league, we extremely regret that a president of one team management company (has been arrested) and apologize to our clients and those who are associated with us for giving them so much trouble and worries,” The league statement said. “Since the case is under investigation right now, we will refrain from making any comments on the details. However, we will update and report on the latest situation, and we would like to ask you for understanding.”

The Rizing were the bj-league championship runnerup squad last May, losing to the Yokohama B-Corsairs in the title game.

The Rizing have had a topsy-turvy 2013-14 campaign. Mack Tuck was named the team’s new coach before the season, but the American left before the first regular-season game, citing family issues as the reason for his departure.

Kimitoshi Sano, Tuck’s assistant in the preseason, took over as the head man and Fukuoka struggled in the first half of the season, going 11-17. The Rizing then hired Canadian James Duncan as their new head coach in late January, and Sano became the assistant coach again.

The Rizing have won 14 of 20 games since Duncan took over. Despite the aforementioned arrest, Duncan said the team’s mission has not changed

“Yes, management informed me of the situation and the team as well,” Duncan told The Japan Times on Tuesday. “The club has reassured the team it is fine. Of course, it’s an unfortunate situation but we do not control any of that and we are focused on getting ourselves ready for the playoffs. With all the changes and distraction since I arrived in Fukuoka a few months ago, my goal, the club’s goal and the fans’ goal was to make the playoffs. We did that.

“However, I feel the team is not satisfied and they want more. As I’ve been saying, the process continues, we can be so much better, I believe. We confirmed ourselves a playoff berth this past weekend and now we are playing for playoff position. Plus, we want to be playing the right kind of basketball going into the playoffs.”

Duncan said the Rizing must devote all of their attention and energy to upcoming road series against Osaka (this weekend) and Shiga (next weekend) before the playoffs commence.

“I think my guys will continue to be focused on the job in front of us,” Duncan added. “Personally, my coaching responsibilities keep me busy with figuring out how I can get my team better day to day. Everything else will take care of itself.”

One Rizing player, who requested anonymity, echoed Duncan’s sentiments about the team’s objectives.

“We are just focused on doing our job,” the player told this newspaper, “and making another run at the finals. The focus is the same here.”