Sports & General

Baseball-Ohtani says interpreter stole money, denies knowledge of gambling debts

FILE PHOTO: Mar 24, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) on the field prior to the spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Spor

By Rory Carroll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani said on Monday he was the victim of theft by his former interpreter and that he had never bet on baseball or knowingly paid a bookmaker in his first public remarks since the gambling scandal broke last week.

Ohtani’s statement was the Japanese ballplayer’s first remarks since the allegations of “massive theft” against Ippei Mizuhara surfaced, leading to the interpreter’s firing by the team.

“I am very saddened and shocked that someone who I trusted has done this,” Ohtani told reporters at a press conference at Dodger Stadium about Mizuhara.

“I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker,” he added later in the press conference.

Ohtani said he was unaware Mizuhara had gambling debts and that he had been lied to repeatedly by the interpreter who has been by his side since he joined Major League Baseball in 2018.

“Obviously I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker,” he said.

Ohtani said Mizuhara admitted to him in Seoul last week that he had been using Ohtani’s account to make the payments.

“At that moment, it was an absurd thing that was happening and I contacted my reps,” Ohtani said.

Ohtani added that he was assisting in all investigations into the matter.

His attorneys told the LA Times last week that Mizuhara had used the ballplayer’s funds to pay off an alleged illegal bookmaker, who is reportedly under federal investigation.

ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million had been transferred from Ohtani’s account to a Southern California gambling operation.

Questions surrounding Ohtani’s involvement in the scandal prompted him to address reporters on Monday, where he spoke through a new interpreter and left without taking questions.

“To summarize how I’m feeling right now – I’m beyond shocked, it’s really hard to verbalize how I’m feeling at this point,” Ohtani said.

Reuters has been unable to reach Mizuhara for comment.

Ohtani joined the Dodgers last December after signing a $700 million, 10-year contact that brought an end to a high-profile chase for one of the most coveted MLB free agents in recent memory.

The Dodgers play a pre-season game later on Monday. The team’s home opener for the 2024 campaign is on Thursday.


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