POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 4:30 a.m. HST, Feb 15, 2011
TOKYO » Japanese police sought charges Tuesday against two senior sumo wrestlers in an alleged gambling scam.
The wrestlers — both active in the sport's second-highest division — are suspected of gambling on baseball games. Police say gangsters were involved in the gambling as bookies and possibly taking profits on the bets.
Police submitted their request for formal charges Tuesday to the Tokyo District Prosecutors' Office, which will decide whether to pursue the case against the two wrestlers and seven other suspects, police said.
The two wrestlers were identified as Daido, 28, from Tokyo, and Shironoryu, 27, from Mongolia. Police declined to give details about the remaining suspects.
The nine were suspected of betting in a gambling ring allegedly organized by a group of four people, including a former wrestler, who were arrested last month. If convicted, the two could face fines of up to 500,000 yen ($5,000) and the organizers could get up to five years in prison.
The Japan Sumo Association said it had no immediate comment.
Sumo, Japan's national sport, has been hit by a series of scandals in recent years and is now reeling from allegations of widespread bout-fixing. The alleged bout-fixing came to light when police were examining text messages on cell phones confiscated during the baseball gambling investigation.
To help repair its tarnished image, the sumo association has quizzed all wrestlers in the sport's two top divisions to find if they were involved in fixing the outcome of matches.
But the allegations of cheating and gambling continue to deepen.
Amid a public outcry, the sumo association has decided to cancel its next major tournament — the first time that has happened in 65 years — and forego a number of exhibition or charity events until the matter is resolved.