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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Ohtani Emphatically Denies Any Knowledge of Translator’s Gambling

  • The MLB superstar insists his former translator has engaged in ‘theft and fraud.’
  • Ohtani’s position places even greater weight on the forensics behind the wire transfers in question.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani has emphatically denied any direct or indirect betting on baseball, or any other sports, and in turn has drawn a clear line that dramatically raises the stakes for forthcoming investigations. 

The Dodgers superstar held a 12-minute press conference on Monday afternoon, counting translations, but did not take questions. But with some elements of emotion visible from the normally reserved player, Ohtani (above, left) blamed the entire episode on his former translator and close friend, Ippei Mizuhara (above, right). Ohtani claimed Mizuhara engaged in theft and fraud, and insisted he had no knowledge of the betting activity until March 20, after the Dodgers played the first two games in Seoul against the Padres.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies,” Ohtani said through a new translator, Will Ireton, also the Dodgers’ manager of performance operations. “I didn’t know Ippei has a gambling addiction or was in debt. … I never agreed to pay off a debt.”

That statement completely counters Mizuhara’s initial story last week to ESPN, in which he said Ohtani was aware of the interpreter’s gambling issues and knowingly helped pay off his debt.

By leaving no ambiguity in his statement, Ohtani has given even greater weight as to the forensics behind the wire transfers in question, in which millions of dollars were sent from his account to an illegal gambling operation. MLB and the Internal Revenue Service are now investigating the matter. Ohtani additionally has potentially opened himself to both civil and criminal issues should his public allegations of crime by Mizuhara be proven false.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered in this entire saga, including how Ohtani and his legal and financial representatives had no knowledge of Mizuhara’s alleged theft until last week. Such queries are likely to be part of those ongoing probes, and Ohtani said in the press conference he would cooperate with all of them. 

“I am beyond shocked,” Ohtani said. “It’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point. The season is going to start so I will let my lawyers handle matters from here on out.”

The Ohtani situation remains a major flash point in the ongoing rise of sports betting in the U.S., one that follows a series of other troubling episodes in recent weeks across the sports industry (some tied to legal betting) and his own signing of a $700 million contract that is the largest in American team sports history.

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