PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors said Thursday that $2 million tied to Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympics was apparently paid to an account linked to the son of the disgraced former IAAF president in the months immediately before and after the Japanese capital won the games.
The French financial prosecutor’s office said it has been told of payments totaling 2.8 million Singapore dollars that were marked “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid,” from a Japanese bank to the Black Tidings company in Singapore.
The Singapore account is thought to have been held by a close friend of Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack. The son is being sought by Interpol and the father is under investigation in France.
The French prosecutors probing suspected corruption by the Diacks and associates said they were told the transfers occurred in July and October 2013. Tokyo was chosen in September 2013 as the 2020 host, beating Madrid and Istanbul in a vote of the International Olympic Committee.
As an IOC member at the time, the elder Diack had a vote. He was also a high-profile figure who could influence blocs of IOC votes.
Black Tidings, an apparent shell company in Singapore, has been linked by French prosecutors and a World Anti-Doping Agency-led investigation to Papa Massata Diack, who worked as a marketing consultant for the International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body of track and field that his father ran for 16 years.
The prosecutor’s office said it received information of the two “Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game Bid” transfers in December. The prosecutors did not name the source of their information nor say what the funds were for. But the office said it has evidence of “important purchases” in Paris that were financed by Black Tidings. It did not detail the purchases.
Based on this and other evidence, the prosecutor’s office said it opened an investigation on Dec. 24, separate from their already existing and ongoing probe of the Diacks, “to determine the nature of the transactions … and to verify if acts of corruption and money-laundering were committed in the process of designating the host city of the 2020 Olympic Games.”
In January, a WADA-commissioned probe of IAAF corruption identified the holder of the Black Tidings account as Ian Tan Tong Han. It said Tan is such a close friend and associate of Papa Massata Diack that he named his child, born in 2014, “Massata.”
Papa Massata Diack is wanted in France on bribery, money-laundering and corruption charges. International police organization Interpol has put him on its “Red Notice” list of internationally wanted suspected criminals. The 50-year-old is believed to be living in his native Senegal, out of reach of French investigating magistrates.
The elder Diack, who stepped down in August as IAAF president, is accused by French prosecutors of pocketing more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) from bribes in exchange for covering up doping cases. He is in France, forbidden from leaving while the probe continues.
Now expanded to include Olympic bidding, the French prosecutors’ investigation started last year with a narrower focus on alleged corruption and doping cover-ups during Diack’s IAAF presidency.
In Tokyo, Olympic organizers denied any knowledge of the alleged payments. The Guardian newspaper in Britain first reported the suspected transfers to Black Tidings, but without naming sources.
In a statement, Tokyo 2020 spokeswoman Hikariko Ono said the committee “has no means of knowing these allegations. We believe that the games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid.”
Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, maintained Tokyo’s bid was clean. He said the government has no plans to question the Tokyo Organizing Committee or conduct its own investigation but will “respond appropriately” if French judicial authorities ask for help.
“We understand the campaign for the 2020 Tokyo Games was conducted in a clean way,” Suga said at a news conference.
The IOC said it has been in touch with French magistrates from the start and is now a civil party to the investigation. The IOC said its chief ethics and compliance officer “will continue to be in contact with all interested parties to clarify any alleged improper conduct.”
Lamine Diack resigned as an honorary IOC member last November. He served as a full IOC member for 15 years until 2014.
Papa Massata Diack was banned from athletics for life by the IAAF ethics commission in January for corruption and cover-up allegations linked to doping cases. He has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Possible wrongdoing involving Lamine Diack and the 2020 Olympic bid race was cited in a WADA-commissioned investigation of the IAAF. A footnote to a report by the WADA commission in January indicated that Diack was prepared to sell his vote in exchange for $5 million in sponsorship for the IAAF.
The report suggested that Diack dropped his support for Istanbul’s bid because Turkey refused to pay, and also indicated that the Japanese did pay. Tokyo defeated Istanbul 60-36 in the final round of IOC voting in 2013 in Buenos Aires.
Black Tidings was registered as a company in Singapore, according to the WADA probe. It said Black Tidings’ Singapore bank account was used in the March 2014 transfer of 300,000 euros ($340,000) in the cover-up of a Russian marathoner’s doping case. WADA’s commission said it turned over evidence of that transfer to French magistrates, via Interpol.
The report described Tan as “a very close friend and associate” of Papa Massata Diack and said he also worked as a marketing consultant.
Companies controlled by Tan, Papa Massata and another of Diack’s sons who did consulting, Khalil, “could easily be used to cover up improper payments associated with their personal activities,” the report alleged.
AP Sports Writer Jim Armstrong contributed to this report from Tokyo.