Olympic mascot seller questioned over payment to bribe suspect’s friend

A company selected to sell stuffed mascot dolls for the Tokyo Summer Games gave millions of yen to an acquaintance of a suspect in the widening Olympic bribery scandal, investigative sources said.

Tokyo-based Sun Arrow Inc. provided a total of about 8 million yen ($56,000) to a company operated by a golfing buddy of Haruyuki Takahashi, a former Olympic organizing committee executive, the sources said.

Takahashi has been arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes from men’s clothing retailer Aoki Holdings Inc. and publisher Kadokawa Corp., two companies that were chosen as Olympic sponsors.

The sources said prosecutors questioned Sun Arrow executives to determine the flow of money.

Sun Arrow officials declined to comment on the allegations. Takahashi’s golfing buddy also told The Asahi Shimbun, “I know nothing.”

Sun Arrow manufactured dolls of the Tokyo Olympic mascot called Miraitowa, which combines the Japanese words “mirai” (future) and “towa” (forever). It also produced Someity, the Paralympic mascot whose name combines “somei-yoshino,” a popular cherry blossom variety, with the English words “so mighty.”

The sources said Sun Arrow also sold stuffed dolls designed after the Snowlets mascots for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

Company executives approached Takahashi around 2018 and expressed their desire to produce and sell dolls based on the Tokyo Games’ mascots, the sources said.

After Miraitowa and Someity were selected as the mascots, the organizing committee selected Sun Arrow and another company to sell the dolls.

Sun Arrow subsequently transferred money to the company operated by the golfing buddy, and about 8 million yen is believed to have gone to Takahashi, according to the sources.

The marketing department of the organizing committee assessed applications from companies that wanted to handle officially licensed products bearing the Olympic emblem and mascots.

Many of those working in the marketing department, including the chief, were employees of advertising giant Dentsu Inc.

Takahashi once worked as a Dentsu executive.

The sources said prosecutors were looking into whether Takahashi lobbied the marketing department to have Sun Arrow choose to sell the stuffed dolls.

Sun Arrow was established in 1918. In addition to manufacturing and selling stuffed dolls, the company operates teddy bear museums in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture.

The company had sales of about 2.5 billion yen in the fiscal year ending in March 2020.

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