One of several Japanese officials charged in a widespread bribery scandal involving Tokyo Olympic organisers was found guilty Tuesday but avoided jail time.
The verdict in Tokyo District Court for Joji Matsui, the former head of Amuse consulting company, was the first for someone on the receiving end of bribes from companies seeking sponsorships and licensing for the 2020 Games.
Matsui was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for four years.
Presiding Judge Kenji Yasunaga said the facts showed Matsui had allowed his company bank account to be used to disguise the transfer of funds to Haruyuki Takahashi, who, as an executive on the Japanese Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, wielded considerable influence in selecting sponsors.
Yasunaga said the bribes involved, totaling about 27 million yen ($186,000), were significant and “the damage to public trust has been great.” Matsui, who acknowledged guilt during the trial, remained silent and nodded.
His defense had argued Matsui was just following orders from Takahashi. That and his expression of remorse were factors in the decision on a suspended sentence, which kept him out of prison.
Takahashi has been charged with receiving bribes from five companies, estimated at nearly 200 million yen ($1.4 million). The date for his trial has not yet been set. He has denied the charges.
Previous verdicts in the sprawling Olympic bribery scandal, in which 15 people have been charged, have included suspended sentences.
They included officials at Sun Arrow, which made the Olympic mascots, and clothing manufacturer Aoki Holdings, tapped to dress the Japanese Olympic team.
Another verdict is set for next week, for Shinji Ueno, former president of ADK, an advertising company, also accused of bribing Takahashi.
Corruption concerns have dogged the Olympics.
Last month, French police searched the headquarters of the Paris Olympic organizing committee as part of an investigation into contracts linked to the Games, according to French prosecutors. Paris is set to host the Summer Olympics next year.
The northern Japanese city of Sapporo had initially hoped to raise its hand for the 2030 Winter Olympics, although the bid has has recently been muted amid the Tokyo bribery trials.
A separate trial is ongoing in Japan involving bid-rigging for contracts related to the 2020 Tokyo Games. Advertising giant Dentsu is among those accused in that scandal.
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