Photo/Illutration Yasuo Mori speaks at a media briefing on the Tokyo 2020 Games test events on March 29, 2021. (Pool)

Tokyo prosecutors on Feb. 8 arrested four people, including a former executive of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics organizing committee and a former sports official at advertising giant Dentsu Inc., after a months-long investigation into suspicions they played a leading role in bid-rigging for contracts related to Games’ test events.

The four are: Yasuo Mori, 55, who served as deputy executive director of the committee’s operations bureau; Koji Henmi, 55, former assistant director of Dentsu’s sports division; Yoshiji Kamata, 59, managing director of event production company Cerespo Co.; and Masahiko Fujino, 63, managing director of TV program production company Fuji Creative Corp.

Just after 10 a.m. the same day, investigators with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office began a search of Mori’s home as well as that of Henmi. Investigators also searched the offices of Cerespo and Fuji Creative.

In 2018, the organizing committee outsourced a project to plan test events for each competition aimed at checking how to operate and manage potential problems with security setups prior to the Olympics.

Bids were conducted for each venue. Dentsu and eight other companies, along with a consortium of businesses, won the 26 contracts totaling around 540 million yen ($4.10 million), making a mockery of what was supposed to have been competitive bidding.

All the successful bidders were also later awarded contracts to manage the test events and corresponding competitions under what are known as free contracts totaling around 40 billion yen.

Prosecutors believe that Mori and others restricted fair competition by agreeing to determine potential successful contractors for each venue for the tasks of the test events and corresponding competitions.

Prior to the bids to “choose” companies to plan the test events, Mori, in cahoots with officials from Dentsu, compiled a list of prospective bidders based on their interest in the project and business track records, sources said.

Most of the tenders saw only one company submit a bid, almost matching the list drawn up in advance.

When the bids were conducted, the committee explained in multiple documents that, in principle, it would award successful bidders successive contracts until they are given contracts to operate the corresponding competition events, according to the sources.

Prosecutors believe that Mori and Dentsu officials seconded to the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, along with Dentsu officials responsible for Games-related issues at the company, led the bid-rigging.

Mori and the Dentsu officials initially balked at the assertion the list was unlawful, maintaining during voluntary questioning with prosecutors that it was intended to ensure that at least a single company would join each of the tenders.

But once the Dentsu side conceded in late January that compiling the list amounted to bid-rigging, Mori had a change of heart and admitted to the allegations against him.

In November, prosecutors searched the offices of eight of the nine successful bidders, including Dentsu, Cerespo, Fuji Creative, and major advertising companies Hakuhodo DY Holdings Inc. and ADK Holdings, as well as the offices of subcontractors of those companies and Mori’s home.

Last year, prosecutors indicted Haruyuki Takahashi, a 78-year-old former Tokyo Olympic organizing committee official, for receiving bribes totaling 200 million yen in connection with the selection of corporate sponsors of the 2020 Games, which were held a year behind schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bid-rigging allegations emerged during investigations into the bribery scandal.