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Olympics: Tokyo says 2020 bid 'clean' after payment report

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Japan insisted its successful bid for the 2020 Olympics was "clean" on Thursday after a new report alleged clandestine payments surrounding the campaign for the Tokyo Games.

[TOKYO] Japan insisted its successful bid for the 2020 Olympics was "clean" on Thursday after a new report alleged clandestine payments surrounding the campaign for the Tokyo Games.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that French authorities are probing payments totalling about 1.3 million euros (S$1.9 million) made to an account linked to Papa Massata Diack - the son of Lamine Diack, the disgraced former president of world athletics governing body IAAF.

The Guardian said that it is "now understood that among transactions under suspicion are payments totalling about 1.3 million euros apparently sent from the Tokyo 2020 bid, or those acting on their behalf" to a secret bank account in Singapore.

The report comes as French authorities confirmed that an enquiry into corruption allegations against the former IAAF head has been expanded to examine bidding for the 2016 Olympics, hosted later this year in Rio de Janeiro, and for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

The enquiry is part of a wider investigation into Lamine Diack, who was a member of the International Olympic Committee until 2013 when Tokyo beat fellow bidders Istanbul and Madrid.

"My understanding is that the bid process of the Tokyo 2020 Games was done in a clean way," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, told a press conference when asked about the report.

"Japan will take appropriate measures if the French justice authorities make any request" but has no intention to question the Tokyo 2020 team based on the report, Suga added.

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee "has no means of knowing these allegations", spokeswoman Hikariko Ono said in a statement to AFP when asked about the Guardian report. "We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid." The IOC has insisted there is "no evidence" of any wrongdoing.

Lamine Diack, who headed the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for 15 years, faces criminal charges in France over allegations that he took more than one million euros in bribes from Russian athletes and officials to cover up failed drug tests.

He has been charged with corruption, money laundering and conspiracy and is out on bail.

Paris prosecutors are also seeking Papa Massata Diack, who is the subject of an Interpol international alert on charges of blackmailing athletes who failed drug tests.

The account in Singapore to which the Tokyo team allegedly made the payments was linked to Papa Massata Diack, who was employed by the IAAF as a marketing consultant, the Guardian said.

The newspaper added that the alleged money from Tokyo 2020 "also raises questions about the role of Dentsu, the Japanese marketing giant that has an all-encompassing sponsorship contact with the IAAF that runs until 2029".

It also reported that the secret Singapore account was held by a "consultant to Athlete Management and Services, a Dentsu Sport subsidiary based in Lucerne, Switzerland." However, the advertising and public relations conglomerate denied any link when contacted by AFP.

"AMS is not our subsidiary and we have never hired a consultant," said a Dentsu spokesman. "We have never been investigated by the French authorities nor been asked to cooperate." He added that Papa Massata Diack was "an agent for the IAAF, but not for us. We cannot comment on what we don't know." Last year's investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that led police to Lamine Diack's door could yet have implications for this summer's Rio Olympics, with Russian athletes facing a ban from the Games for state-sponsored doping.

AFP