LONDON — The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee has been indicted on corruption charges in France, following an investigation into the bidding process that led to Tokyo being awarded the Summer Games it is preparing to host next year.
Tsunekazu Takeda, a former Olympian who is also the chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s marketing commission, was charged by an investigating judge on Dec. 10, a spokeswoman for France’s financial crimes prosecutor confirmed. She said Mr. Takeda had met with the judge, but she declined to provide further information because the case is continuing.
In a statement, Mr. Takeda acknowledged that he had been questioned by French authorities, but denied their accusations.
The news is yet another blow to the credibility of the Olympic movement, which has been battered by a number of corruption cases linked to previous Olympic bids and the ongoing repercussions of a massive Russian doping operation at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that its ethics commission had opened a file on the most recent charges and will “continue to monitor the situation.”
“Mr. Takeda continues to enjoy the full presumption of innocence,” it added.
Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games at a meeting of the committee in Buenos Aires in 2013. France’s financial crimes prosecutors have long suspected that the victory was tainted, after uncovering payments linked to Papa Massata Diack, a former marketing official with track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athetics Federations.
Prosecutors contend that money was paid to African Olympic committee officials for their votes. They also accuse Mr. Diack, whom France has sought to extradite from his native Senegal for several years, of facilitating and accepting bribes from officials behind Rio de Janeiro’s successful bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Last year, following a joint operation with French authorities, Brazilian prosecutors filed a corruption case against the former head of Brazil’s Olympic Committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman.
Though Mr. Takeda, a former equestrian competitor, has been placed under formal investigation on corruption charges, it is not clear whether he will stand trial.
In France, complex criminal cases are handled by special magistrates with broad investigative powers, who place defendants under formal investigation when they believe the evidence points to serious wrongdoing. But the magistrates can later drop the charges if they do not believe the evidence is sufficient to proceed to trial.
In 2016, French prosecutors said they had uncovered more than $2 million in payments made by Tokyo’s bidding committee to a little-known Singaporean company, Black Tidings, during the competition to host the 2020 Olympics. That company was found to belong to a close friend of Mr. Diack.
The Japanese authorities, at the request of the French, questioned Mr. Takeda about those payments in 2017, but have taken no action since. Officials said the payments were for consulting work, and a panel commissioned by the Japanese Olympic Committee said in 2016 that it had found that the payments were legitimate.
It was unclear whether the Japanese committee would reopen is investigation in light of the French charges. Calls to the committee went unanswered late Friday.
Tokyo beat out rivals Madrid and Istanbul to win the Summer Olympics for the first time since 1964. Back then, the Olympics symbolized Japan’s recovery from World War II; similarly, organizers in Japan had seen the 2020 Games as a chance to show the world that their country was bouncing back from the devastating March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Now, suggestions that corruption played a role in Japan’s triumph have cast a pall over the preparations.
Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, who leads the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, told the Fuji News Network that he was “simply shocked” by France’s move. The organizing committee was set up jointly by the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government, and Mr. Takeda serves as one of its vice presidents.
“Perhaps perceptions differ from those of Japan, and I hope this is a mistake,” Mr. Mori said.
Mr. Takeda is the second Olympic luminary to face serious legal action in recent months. In November, Sheikh Ahmed al Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s royal family and close ally of the I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, temporarily stepped down from the committee after being accused by the Swiss authorities in a forgery case. He was also identified in 2017 as an unindicted co-conspirator in a soccer corruption filed case by the United States Department of Justice. He denies all the allegations.
The International Olympic Committee has stressed it has implemented reforms to its bidding process since Rio de Janeiro’s and Tokyo’s victories.
That has not prevented a public backlash against the Games in several prospective host cities. Several cities vying for the 2026 Winter Games pulled out, leaving just two, and there remain question marks over whether one of the bidders, Stockholm, will remain in the race ahead of a decision later this year.