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Japan Olympic Committee chief probed over 2020 Games bid payments

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The chief of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) on Wednesday said he has been questioned as part of a French investigation into the legitimacy of payments made during Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Japanese prosecutors questioned Tsunekazu Takeda in Tokyo last week, following a request from France, which is probing alleged payments worth around $2 million by Tokyo's 2020 Games committee or related bodies, to an offshore account linked to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that they suspect were bribes to win the bid to host the event.

Speaking to the local media, Takeda, who headed the candidature committee, said he had defended the payments as legitimate, as confirmed by a JOC probe last year.

Earlier, Takeda had confirmed that the payments were declared, audited and notified to the IOC as payments for consultancy services provided by the firm, calling it "standard practice" for those bidding for the Olympic Games.

However, French authorities suspect the transactions, facilitated through a Japanese bank between July and October 2013, may have involved corruption and money laundering.

The beneficiary bank account belonged to Black Tidings, a consultancy firm headed by Ian Tan Tong Han and with links to Papa Massata Diack, son of Lamine Diack, who resigned in 2014 as IAAF head, following a bribery scandal involving the alleged cover-up of positive doping results of some Russian athletes.