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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Environment group accuses Tokyo Olympics organisers of using illegally sourced wood

TOKYO – An environmental group has accused organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics of wilfully committing unsustainable environmental practices by using wood purportedly obtained through illegal logging.

The US-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN) said on Monday (Nov 12) that the use of wood from Malaysia and Indonesia to build new Games venues “flies in the face” of Tokyo’s commitment to realise the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

“Unfortunately, Tokyo 2020’s substantial procurement of unsustainable tropical timber has already undermined this pledge,” the group said in a scathing 12-page report titled Broken Promises. This is due to the “illegal logging, human rights abuses, and high deforestation rates that have been widely documented in both the Malaysian and Indonesian forestry sectors and given what is known of Tokyo 2020’s plywood suppliers”.

The Straits Times has asked the Games’ organisers for a response to the report, which accuses them of going against their own pledge to use timber that is “harvested through logging activity that is considerate toward the conservation of the ecosystem”.

The Games is already plagued by controversy over delays and mounting cost overruns.

Last month’s relocation of the 83-year-old Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu to make way for a road to improve access from central Tokyo to the Tokyo Bay area, where some Games facilities are located, came two years later than schedule over pollution concerns at the new site.

Further, the Board of Audit estimated last month (Oct) that total spending for the event will reach at least US$25 billion (S34.5billion) – more than four times the original budget.

Japan is the world’s largest global consumer of tropical plywood, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia, and this is the second time RAN has questioned the Tokyo Olympics over its wood sourcing practices.

In April last year, the group was one of seven environmental organisations that urged Tokyo to stop using cheap timber at the new National Stadium, a wooden latticed centrepiece designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma.

They said that some of the timber had come from Malaysian logging giant Shin Yang, which has been accused of deforestation and human rights violations. The Games’ organisers had, at the time, confirmed the use of Shin Yang timber but stressed that the wood met certification standards according to its sustainable sourcing rules.

RAN said on Monday that the practice has continued despite the initial report, noting that at least 134,400 sheets of tropical plywood from Malaysia and Indonesia were used as the concrete framework for a series of new Olympic venues as of May this year.

For instance, wood from Shin Yang, which has denied the allegations, was found at the Olympic Village construction site in December last year, RAN said.

Meanwhile, it added that tropical plywood from Korindo – an Indonesian company accused of illegal logging and human rights abuses, as well as using fire to clear land that contributed significantly to the haze that affected Singapore in 2015 – has been used to build the new Ariake Arena, the planned volleyball venue in the Tokyo Bay area.

Citing photographic evidence and company supply chain data, RAN said there was a “high risk that wood supplied to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was tainted and illegal”.

Japanese timber and building materials trading company Sumitomo Forestry, however, has asserted to RAN that it has “only supplied legally sourced timber”.

The group added: “Olympic organisers have defended their use of Korindo wood on grounds that its supplier, Sumitomo Forestry, assured them of compliance.”

According to RAN, tropical deforestation has picked up pace over the last 10 years despite increasing global attention – and commitment – to climate change.

Last year, tropical forests covering an area of 158,000 sq km – or 40 per cent the size of Japan – were lost. This was marginally lower than the record area set in 2016.

“The timber procurement practices of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers and Japanese companies have already compromised the sustainability credentials of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” RAN said. “They further risk undermining Japan’s commitment to the sustainable development goals, which aim to halt deforestation and restore degraded forests by 2020.”

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