In the latest blow to the International Olympic Committee’s efforts to rid itself of scandal, marketing head Tsunekazu Takeda is being investigated for suspected corruption related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Takeda, who is also the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, was placed under formal investigation for “active corruption” on Dec. 10, France’s financial crimes office announced on Friday.
French investigators are in the midst of a years-long and wide-ranging probe into sports corruption that is looking, among other things, at the bidding contests for the 2020 Olympics and other major sports events.
Takeda’s career in Olympic circles has ticked almost every box, starting with representing Japan in equestrian at the 1972 Munich Games and 1976 Montreal Games.
As the head of the IOC’s marketing commission since 2014, Takeda has overseen signing sponsor deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including new partnerships with Alibaba, Intel and Allianz.
In a statement issued Friday by the Japanese Olympic Committee, Takeda denied any wrongdoing. The JOC said he was in Tokyo but gave no further details.
“The case is causing tremendous concern among the people who are supporting the Tokyo Games, but I will continue to co-operate in the investigation in order to clear any suspicion of me,” Takeda said.
The IOC ethics commission is scheduled to meet later Friday in Lausanne, Switzerland. Takeda could be provisionally suspended from Olympic duty, or offer to step aside during the investigation.
The Japanese Olympic Committee said it has conducted its own internal investigation and found no illegality involved in all payments made by the Japanese bid committee at the time.
The organizers of the 2020 Olympics referred questions to the JOC.
In Takeda’s Olympic career, he has led a national Olympic committee, been a vice-president of an Olympic sport’s governing body, equestrian, a chef de mission for Olympic teams, a sports director for a Winter Olympics — Nagano in 1998 — a Summer Games bid leader, an IOC member since 2012, and now chair of one of the most financially significant IOC panels.
Takeda also works closely with Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait, the influential IOC member who has stepped aside from the IOC while awaiting trial in Geneva this year in a fraud case unrelated to Olympic business. Takeda is a board member of the global group of Olympic committees, known as ANOC, and the Olympic Council of Asia, both led by the Kuwaiti sheikh.