Head of Japan's Olympic Committee indicted in France over corruption allegations

PARIS (Reuters) – The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, has been indicted in France on corruption allegations, a judicial source confirmed on Friday.

He was indicted last month by the national financial prosecutor’s office in Paris, the source said.

Takeda, a retired equestrian sportsman who is helping to organize Japan’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games, was not immediately reachable for comment.

The Japanese Olympic Committee said it was not immediately able to comment. Tokyo 2020, the games’ organizing body, was not available for comment.

In 2016, French prosecutors announced an investigation into more than $2 million of payments made by the Japanese bidding committee to a Singaporean consultancy firm, Black Tidings, during the bidding for the 2020 games.

Takeda was questioned in 2017 by Japanese prosecutors in relation to those payments. The questioning took place at the request of French authorities, Kyodo News agency reported at the time.

Black Tidings is headed by Ian Tan Tong Hon, who is known to be friends with Papa Massata Diack, the son of disgraced former international athletics chief Lamine Diack.

Japanese officials said at the time that the payments were legitimate consultant’s fees, and a panel commissioned by the Japanese Olympic Committee said in 2016 that it found the payments to have been legitimate. (here)

Japan’s hosting of the Summer Games has been mired in setbacks, including an overhaul of the stadium design, which was abandoned in response to public anger over soaring costs, and plagiarism allegations over its original logo.

Takeda, 71, has long been involved in the Olympics movement, having competed as a show jumper in the 1972 and 1976 games.

He has been a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee since 1987 and its president since 2001, helping to coordinate the preparations for several Winter Olympics as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC was not immediately reachable for comment.

Takeda attended a ceremony in Tokyo on Friday along with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020, according to Mori’s office.

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New Zealand sets 2020 cannabis referendum

New Zealanders will vote on legalising recreational cannabis in a referendum during the 2020 general election, the country’s justice minister said.

A vote was promised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party last year during cross-party talks, which helped to form a coalition government.

It comes a week after lawmakers gave medicinal cannabis the green light.

An opinion poll last year suggested two thirds of New Zealanders favoured legalisation.

“We know when it will be, we have a commitment that it will be binding, and now it is just a question on filling in the detail from there,” said Justice Minister Andrew Little, following a decision by the country’s cabinet on Monday.

New Zealand’s left-wing Labour Party is part of a three-way coalition government, with the centrist Green Party and populists New Zealand First (NZF). The partnership was formed after inconclusive elections last year led to a hung parliament.

The Greens have welcomed the referendum decision.

“We’ve had countless opinion polls for decades now, confirming New Zealanders are positively well ahead of political action on the issue of cannabis law reform,” the party’s spokesperson Chloe Swarbrick said in a statement.

“This binding referendum presents an opportunity to have the will of the people trigger meaningful legislative change,” she added.

However the NZF leader Simon Bridges called the vote was a “cynical” move to distract voters from other issues around the general election.

Mr Bridges also said legalising cannabis would normalise drug use.

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in New Zealand, according to the NZ Drug Foundation.

The charity says that by the age of 21, 80% of New Zealanders have tried cannabis at least once, whilst 10% had developed a pattern of heavy use.

A vote in favour of legalisation would make New Zealand the first Asia Pacific country to allow its recreational use.

Cannabis is widely prohibited throughout the world, but recreational use has recently been legalised in Canada and Uruguay.

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