In-depth interview with authorities… “specific charges” that Ippei Mizuhara may be charged with and “four issues in the investigation.” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

In-depth interview with authorities… “specific charges” that Ippei Mizuhara may be charged with and “four issues in the investigation.”

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When he returned to Japan in the off-season, he has been working together with Otani, including accompanying him to training sessions. For that reason, this issue will have a major impact on Otani.

The interpreter for Major League Baseball’s Dodgers, Mr. Ippei Mizuhara, has been revealed to have been involved in illegal gambling activities and has been dismissed by the team. Mizuhara, who has supported Shohei Ohtani’s pitching and hitting dual roles, was found to have a hidden dual role as both an interpreter and a gambler, causing a major uproar. If Japanese law is applied, Mizuhara is likely to be primarily charged with gambling offenses. Shohei Ohtani, who covered Mizuhara’s approximately $4.5 million debt, which amounts to about ¥680 million, could also become subject to legal punishment. This was deciphered by investigating police officials.

According to the US sports channel ESPN, Mizuhara began sports gambling around 2021 and has accumulated debts of about ¥680 million. However, repayment of the debt was made from Shohei Ohtani’s bank account, and the full amount was transferred to the bookmaker in California, USA. Mizuhara responded to interviews on the 19th, stating that he had requested repayment of gambling debts from Ohtani last year. It is said that Ohtani reluctantly agreed to cover the debt.

As the first point of contention, investigative officials prefaced their explanation with based on the application of Japanese law, and elaborated as follows.

“First, there is a possibility that the gambling operator could be subject to criminal penalties for receiving criminal proceeds from illegal gambling. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the facts of the gambling activity as a prerequisite. If it is established that Ohtani voluntarily sent the money and repaid debts on behalf of acquaintances, it is unlikely that he would immediately become subject to criminal penalties. Although Ohtani may need to be questioned about the circumstances, it would likely be to the extent of being considered a witness.”

However, when Shohei Ohtani’s representative lawyer declared that he had suffered “significant theft,” Mizuhara responded to interviews again on the 20th, contradicting the previous day’s explanation. He claimed that Ohtani knew nothing about gambling or debts and had not made any payments to cover debts. He emphasized that Ohtani was not involved.

This brings us to the second point of contention, as continued by the aforementioned investigative officials.

“If it is determined that Ohtani was not involved, as claimed by the representative lawyer, then he would be considered a victim of theft. Since the transfer was executed, Ohtani would be the victim and Mizuhara the perpetrator of theft. It would imply that Mizuhara stole from Ohtani’s bank account through some means. However, the specific method would be crucial.”

Another investigative official pointed out the possibility of embezzlement:

“At this stage, there is limited information, so many things are unclear. However, Mizuhara not only served as Ohtani’s interpreter but also as his practice partner and driver, supporting both his public and private life. If Mizuhara had access to and misused control of Ohtani’s bank account for personal gain, it could potentially constitute embezzlement under the law as ‘embezzling another’s property in one’s possession in the course of duty.'”

There are also suggestions that if Mizuhara obtained something like a password to manipulate the bank account and made unauthorized transfers, he could potentially be charged with electronic fraud.

In the winter of ’21, Mr. Mizuhara is driving home. Otani is sitting in the passenger seat. It is said that Mr. Mizuhara started gambling that year.

In the United States, sports gambling regarding game outcomes is legally conducted in many states. However, Mizuhara’s gambling activities, upon discovery, were deemed illegal in California. The bookmaker from whom Mizuhara accrued debts became a subject of investigation. It was the revelation of payments from Ohtani’s side during the investigation that led to the current uproar. Mizuhara has defended himself to ESPN, stating, “I didn’t know it was illegal,” but he admits to engaging in gambling.

The defense of not knowing it was illegal constitutes the third point of contention. In Japan, police regularly crack down on illegal casinos and similar activities. In such cases, both the operators and customers are often arrested on the spot for running or participating in gambling, respectively.

Regarding the first point of contention, explained by the investigative officials:

“When crackdowns occur at gambling establishments domestically, both the managers and employees of the establishments, as well as the customers, are arrested on the spot. However, in many cases, they are released after being questioned at home and sent for prosecution, with fines being the typical outcome.”


Therefore, if Mizuhara admits to gambling, he would become a target for criminal penalties. Being raised in the USA, claiming “I didn’t know” might not be an acceptable defense.

Ohtani’s side claims to have suffered significant theft The investigation into this theft constitutes the fourth point of contention. As the two spend considerable time together in both public and private settings and have a friendly relationship, one of the aforementioned investigative officials speculates that Ohtani’s side might not file a complaint.

Whether it’s out of reluctance to betray a friend to the police or an attempt to seek de-escalation without filing a complaint while asserting that there was no involvement in covering debts on Ohtani’s part remains to be seen. The development of the situation requires further observation.

In February of this year, Ohtani and Mizuhara attended a talk show together for Dodgers fans. When asked about his relationship with Mizuhara, Ohtani responded, “It’s a business relationship. We’re not friends anymore, but we get along well.” At this point, the repayment of the substantial debt had already been completed.

When Mizuhara translated this as, “We’re not friends, just business partners,” many fans in the audience burst into laughter. At that time, it was seen as a witty comeback full of humor, but now it may be evaluated as a brilliant instance of black humor, pushing Mizuhara away with honesty.

  • Interview and text Masahiro Ojima

    Nonfiction writer. After working for the Sankei Shimbun in the National Police Agency Press Club, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department, the Judicial Press Club, and the National Tax Agency Press Club, he went freelance. His recent book is "How We Live: Money, Women, and Quitting Time of the Modern Yakuza" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho).

  • PHOTO Shu Nishihara

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