Photo/Illutration Hironori Aoki, the chairman of Aoki Holdings Inc., announces the official uniforms for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics at a news conference in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 23, 2020. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo prosecutors are seeking a two-and-a-half-year prison term for the former chairman of a men’s apparel company embroiled in a bribery scandal involving Tokyo Olympics sponsorship and product licensing.

Hironori Aoki, 84, the founder and former chairman of Aoki Holdings Inc., along with two others, are accused of bribing Haruyuki Takahashi, 78, a former board member of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.

Prosecutors said in the second hearing at the Tokyo District Court that Aoki “used the Tokyo Olympics for his self-interest and undermined the trust of the fair management in the Games both at home and abroad.”

Prosecutors are also seeking a one-and-a-half-year jail term for former Vice Chairman Takahisa Aoki, 77, and one-year imprisonment for the former senior managing director, Katsuhisa Ueda, 41.

A lawyer for Aoki asked for a suspended sentence just before the hearing finished. The ruling is expected to be handed down on April 21.

Prosecutors argued that Takahashi was regarded as a civil servant because of the high-profile nature and strong public interest in the Games and that he was “required to have the same high level of integrity as a civil servant.”

The indictment alleges the former officials of Aoki transferred 51 million yen ($400,000) in bribes to Commons Co., a consulting firm headed by Takahashi, between 2017 and 2022 in exchange for favors in sponsorship selection.

They were indicted for some of the alleged bribes, 28 million yen, for which the three-year statute of limitations had not expired.

The prosecutors said the three repeatedly asked Takahashi for favors, including being selected as a Tokyo Games sponsor, gaining early approval to sell officially licensed products and lowering sponsorship fees.

The prosecutors called this “greedy and persistent conduct" and claimed the three “did everything not to miss out on the business opportunity of the Olympics.”

Prosecutors said many of the apparel maker’s requests were fulfilled thanks to Takahashi, while other companies were turned down by the organizing committee and could not become sponsors.

“This was extremely unreasonable and unfair special treatment,” one of the prosecutors said.

The prosecutors asked for different sentences for the former Aoki officials depending on their roles. They said the chairman of Aoki, who “effectively controlled Aoki as its founder,” led the conduct “from start to finish and bears the heaviest responsibility.”

Meanwhile, the defense lawyer asked for leniency at the close of the hearing.

“This was triggered by the sponsorship contract offered by Takahashi, who approached them out of his own self-interest,” the lawyer said. 

The lawyer argued that the three have admitted their guilt and that “they did not personally benefit” from the favors.