French prosecutors probe $2M Tokyo Olympic payments

(CNN)French prosecutors are investigating payments made by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid committee to a Singapore-based company.

In a statement released to CNN on Thursday, prosecutors revealed two payments totaling 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million).
They were made to a company called "Black Tidings" in July and October 2013, and referred to "Tokyo 2020 Olympic Game bid."
    The timing of the two payments, given Japan was awarded the Summer Games in September 2013, "justified the initiation of a separate criminal investigation," the French prosecutor's office said.
    In the statement, the prosecutor said details of the payments emerged during a separate investigation into corruption and money laundering following revelations of widespread doping in Russian sport.
    French prosecutors received the information in December last year, and launched a judicial investigation into an unnamed person to "verify if corruption acts and laundering were committed during the process of designation of the organizing city of the Olympics 2020."
    Earlier this year, it was announced that the bidding and voting processes for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games would be investigated by French prosecutors as part of a wider probe into corruption in athletics.
    The bidding and voting process for the 2016 Olympics concluded in 2009, with Rio seeing off competition from Madrid, while Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games ahead of Istanbul and Madrid.

    'City presented best bid'

    Japanese authorities deny knowledge of any illicit payment and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that it would abide by any investigation by French authorities.
    "We believe that bidding for 2020 Olympic games is conducted in a clean manner," Suga said. "In any case if there will be any inquiry made by the French investigation authority, Japanese government will take an appropriate action based on the contents of the request."
    "The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has no means of knowing these allegations," said Hikariko Ono of Tokyo 2020 Press Office.
    "We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid."
    The Tokyo 2020 Biding Committee also defended the funds, saying it paid "an amount" for professional services.
    It said the services included consultation work, planning of the bid, tutoring on presentation practice and service for information and media analysis.
    "All these services were properly contracted using accepted business practices," the bidding committee said. "... Furthermore, the amounts paid were in our opinion proper and adequate for the services provided and gave no cause for suspicion at the time."
    The statement by the bidding committee was signed by the organization's ex-president, Tsunekazu Takeda, and ex-director general, Nobumoto Higuchi.