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London in the frame to host 2020 Olympics as Japan bid probed over secret payments
French financial prosecutor has launched an inquiry into two payments
Japanese bank account called 'Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid' probed
If Tokyo were stripped of the Games it could be handed back to London
Capital boasts enough venues to host another Olympics at short notice
The head of the Istanbul 2020 Olympic bid that lost out to Tokyo has said that the 2020 Games may have to be staged in London if a French criminal investigation concludes that the Japanese made illegal payments to the company at the centre of the athletics corruption scandal.
On Thursday the French financial prosecutor confirmed that they have launched an inquiry into two payments from a Japanese bank account called ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid’ to the Singapore-based Black Tidings company already suspected by French financial investigators of laundering money extorted from drug cheats in athletics.
Sportsmail revealed that the two payments were made either side of the 2020 Games vote in Buenos Aires in 2013 into the company that has direct links to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack and someone who along with his father is also now the subject of a criminal investigation by the French authorities.
The Parquet National Financial, the French financial prosecutor, has released the exact details of the evidence they have acquired as part of their wider investigation into the corruption scandal in athletics.
A statement, translated here from French, said: ‘In December 2015, as part of the case of corruption and laundering relating to the concealment within the IAAF doping case of Russian athletes, the national financial parquet (PNF) was informed of two financial movements which intervened in the months of July and October 2013, totalling 2.8 million Singapore dollars (￡1.4m), under the title "Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid" from an account at a Japanese bank for the benefit of society "Black Tidings” in Singapore.’
The statement said the ‘the existence of these financial flows near the time of the designation by the International Committee Olympic (IOC) of the host city of the Olympic Games 2020’ was an ‘important parallel finding’ that ‘justified the opening of a separate criminal investigation’.
The statement that ‘on 24 December 2015, the PNF has opened a criminal investigation’ established to ‘verify the facts of corruption and money laundering allegedly committed during the process designation of the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games’.
It concluded that the inquiry, ‘led by three investigative judges of the financial hub of high court of Paris is 'ongoing’.
The vote that was staged at the 125th International Olympic Committee session in Argentina on September 7, 2013 resulted in the Japanese beating Istanbul by 60 to 36 in the final round of voting after Madrid had been eliminated in a first-round ballot.
Yalcin Aksoy, the deputy general secretary of the Turkish Olympic Committee who served as the general director of the Istanbul Olympic Bidding Committee, stressed that the allegations are so far unproven.
But he did recognise the seriousness of the investigation and said if Tokyo did end up being stripped of the Games it would have to be handed back to London, host of the 2012 Games and therefore already in possession of the venues to host another Olympics, because it would be too late for Istanbul or Madrid to build the venues.
‘The only city that could do it, if it is the case (that Tokyo has made these payments), would be to take it to London’ Aksoy told Sportsmail. ‘I hope it doesn’t come to that.
‘But it’s the right of the IOC I would think. I’m sure they will make the right decision about what to do, if it is the case that they (Tokyo) are the ones who transferred the money.’
Aksoy said the Turkish Olympic Committee will wait for the French to conclude the investigation before taking any action of their own.
‘First of all, of course, the allegations have to be proven. Only when the procedures are complete will we then evaluate what to do.
‘I find it hard to believe because since Salt Lake City (in 1999) the IOC has taken serious measures to put an end to such behaviour.
‘But I welcome any kind of investigation, and if there is something fishy going on – and we will have to wait and see if it is true – then we will start thinking about what to do.’
This is not the first time the Tokyo bid has been linked to Lamine Diack and possible corruption in their bid to secure the 2020 Olympics.
In January the IOC said it was ready to examine allegations of possible bribery in the bidding for the 2020 Olympics after a footnote to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s independent commission report had indicated that Lamine Diack was prepared to sell his vote in the 2020 bidding contest in exchange for sponsorship of IAAF events. The report suggested that Diack, then an IOC member, had dropped his support for Istanbul because the Turkish city refused to pay, opting to back Tokyo after the Japanese did pay an alleged amount of ‘$5million’ in sponsorship money.
The French financial prosecutors has also launched their own investigations, not just into the bidding processes for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics but the world athletics championships between 2009 and 2021.
Tokyo bid has been linked to possible corruption
It is understood Papa Massata Diack denies being linked to the two alleged payments from Tokyo, while a statement from the Tokyo Organising Committee to Sportsmail also denied any knowledge of such transactions.
On Wednesday Tokyo 2020 Spokesperson Hikariko Ono said: ‘The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has no means of knowing these allegations. We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid.’
That first statement appeared to make a distinction between the Organising Committee and the Bid Committee, which was disbanded once the 2013 vote had gone in Tokyo’s favour.
But there are clear links between the two. For instance, Tsunekazu Takeda was president of the bid and is now vice-chairman of the Organising Committee.
When pressed on this point Tokyo 2020 issued a further statement. ‘The Organising Committee has no means of knowing these allegations against the Bid Committee,’ it said. ‘The breakdown of the bid activity promotion expenses is disclosed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid activity report (only available in Japanese).’
On Thursday there was no further comment from Tokyo (please update if changes).
Papa Masata Diack has already been banned for life by the IAAF ethics commission for corruption and cover-up allegations linked to Russian doping.
Elaine Houlette, France’s national financial prosecutor, has said that Lamine Diack allegedly pocketed ‘more than one million’ euros as part of a scheme that demanded cash from athletes in exchange for concealing suspected doping.
Information on Black Tidings first surfaced in 2014 after the German broadcaster ARD reported that Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova paid 450,000 Euros to the Russian athletics federation to avoid a doping ban. She was eventually banned following a failed test and claimed she was refunded some of the money, with ARD claiming €300,000 was refunded by Black Tidings, the Singapore-based company owned by a business partner of Papa Massata Diack.
This was reported further in the independent WADA report in January. Indeed a footnote to the report said that Black Tidings in Hindi means ‘Black Marketing or to Launder Black Money’. The company was wound up after the broadcast of the ARD documentary.
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