Nikita Mishra
Feb 9, 2023

Tokyo Olympics bid-rigging: ex-Dentsu, other ad execs arrested

The arrests come after months of investigations into alleged corruption in the planning and sponsorship of the Tokyo Games held in 2021 after a pandemic-driven postponement.

Yasuo Mori at a media briefing on the Tokyo 2020 Games test events on March 29, 2021. Photo: Reuters
Yasuo Mori at a media briefing on the Tokyo 2020 Games test events on March 29, 2021. Photo: Reuters

The ongoing Tokyo Olympics bid-rigging saga tainting ad giants Dentsu, Hakuhodo, ADK and others in Japan has resulted in four fresh arrests on Wednesday, February 8.

Following months of investigations into the alleged corruption in the planning, sponsorship and execution of the events leading up to the 2020 Games, Koji Hemmi, former assistant director of Dentsu’s sports division has been arrested along with Yasuo Mori, a former deputy executive director of the Tokyo 2020 Games Operations Bureau on grounds of allegedly breaching the antitrust laws.

The other two arrests are that of Yoshiji Kamata, managing director of event production company Cerespo Co.; and Masahiko Fujino, managing director of television production company Fuji Creative Corp.

According to Kyodo News, Tokyo District Public Prosecutors searched the homes of both Mori, Hemmi and offices of Fuji Creative Corp and Cerespo yesterday morning before the arrests were made later in the day.

Bid-rigging contravenes Japan's antimonopoly law, the punishment for which is fines and imprisonment. The date for trial and ruling in the current four arrests hasn’t been set, however, rulings for last week’s arrests of executives from apparel retailer Aoki Holdings and ex- Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi is set on April 21.

Dentsu dominates events, marketing, and PR in Japan, and to recap, it helped land the 2020 Games for Tokyo. In 2018, Dentsu and eight other companies including Hakuhodo, ADK and Tokyu Agency, and a consortium won 26 open bids for the rights to plan 56 test events, which were designed to check operational issues prior to the actual event.

In November 2022, ADK which organised three of these events at planned venues, contracts for the same amounted to a little over ¥100 million, voluntarily confessed to bid rigging and offered to fully cooperate. ADK is hoping for leniency, avoidance of criminal charges and a possible reduction in fines.

Three weeks later, Hakuhodo was the next to fold with a voluntary confession: and employee admitted to winning bids unopposed in 2018 for the two test events they wished to secure. The company allegedly told Dentsu about the venues they were targeting and were the sole bidders for these events. Dentsu granted them the two contracts worth a total of ¥40 million (US$290,000), including one for Oi Hockey Stadium, unchallenged.

Investigators believe that Mori, Hemmi and others from Dentsu were in cahoots violating the tender process, restricting fair competition by agreeing to pre-determine potential contractors for each venue. Most of the tenders saw only one company submit a bid, almost matching the list drawn up in advance.

While Dentsu initially balked at the knowledge of any collusion or fixing bids, it recently joined rivals ADK and Hakuhodo in admission of guilt whilst maintaining ignorance linked to the illegality of rigging bids.

On February 7, Dentsu Inc. released a statement to Campaign denying any arrest allegation, saying:

“The reports currently hitting press were not released by Dentsu Inc., Tokyo. There is no factual basis for claims any employees have been arrested. Dentsu Inc. will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation.”

Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to Dentsu for comment on the latest developments; however, we did not hear back from them at the time of publication.

Campaign has been covering this ongoing investigation tainting Japan's ad giants. Get more in-depth updates here:

Campaign Asia

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