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Ex-chair of Tokyo Olympics sponsor handed suspended jail sentence

The former chairman of a Tokyo 2020 Olympics sponsor was handed a suspended two-and-a-half-year prison sentence Friday, the first verdict in a spiralling bribery scandal surrounding the pandemic-postponed Games.

A Tokyo District Court spokesman confirmed the sentence for 84-year-old Hironori Aoki, the ex-head of high-street business suit retailer Aoki Holdings, to AFP.

Prosecutors had reportedly sought two years and six months in jail for Aoki, saying he had “trampled on the public value of the Tokyo Games by using it for his own interests”.

Aoki was arrested in August along with two other current and former executives from the retailer, and Haruyuki Takahashi, a former board member for the Tokyo Olympics.

Takahashi allegedly received $380,000 from Aoki and the two others, according to Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office documents previously seen by AFP.

Aoki Holdings was an official partner of the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were held largely without spectators in 2021 after an unprecedented delay because of Covid.

Japan’s biggest advertising agency and other companies have also been indicted in a growing corruption scandal that has erupted in the aftermath of the event.

Other parties implicated in the bribery cases include a publishing firm and a merchandise company licensed to sell soft toys of the Games’ mascots.

Aoki became a Tokyo Games sponsor in October 2018, allowing it to use the event’s logo and sell officially licensed products.

The scandal is not the first time questions have been raised about alleged impropriety around the Games.

French prosecutors launched an investigation into allegations of corruption linked to Tokyo’s bid for the Games in 2016.

The former head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, stepped down in 2019 as French authorities probed his involvement in payments made before Tokyo was awarded the event.

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