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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Manfred eyes ‘short’ time for Ohtani investigation

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday the league is committed to its investigation of the scandal surrounding Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani and hopes it will take a “short” time to resolve.

Last week Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was fired after questions surrounding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers sent from the superstar’s bank account to a bookmaking operation.

Ohtani claims his close friend Mizuhara repeatedly took money from his accounts to fund his illegal sports gambling habit. Ohtani also says he was completely unaware of the “massive theft,” as his lawyers termed it, until Mizuhara confessed to him and the Dodgers last week in South Korea, where the team opened its regular season against the Padres.

“Given the way the story unfolded, it’s important in assuring our fans about the integrity of the game that we verify the things that Mr. Ohtani said, it’s really that simple,” Manfred said on Major League Baseball Network’s “High Heat with Chris Russo” on Thursday.

Mizuhara incurred the gambling debts to a Southern California bookmaking operation that is under federal investigation, multiple sources told ESPN. How he came to lose his job started with reporters asking questions about the wire transfers.

“It’s really difficult for the federal authorities to cooperate with us fully when they have their own ongoing investigation so I think this is one where we’ll have to proceed on our own,” Manfred said. “We never have the kind of authority that law enforcement people have but we manage to get these investigations done and find the facts and I’m sure we will on this one.

“I hope [it’s] short, but I just don’t know.”

Ohtani’s camp initially said Ohtani transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s debt and presented Mizuhara for an interview with ESPN, during which he laid out the process in detail. The following day, a statement from Berk Brettler LLP, the law firm representing Ohtani in the matter, instead said the two-way star “has been the victim of massive theft.” Mizuhara then told ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his debt and that Ohtani had not transferred the money.

Ohtani’s representatives declined again Tuesday to answer ESPN’s questions about which authorities they have contacted to report their allegation of theft against Ohtani’s former interpreter.

ESPN has been asking repeatedly for the information since Ohtani’s lawyers first issued a statement last week alleging that “Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.”

When asked Tuesday to provide proof that Ohtani or his representatives have reported the theft to an investigating agency, a spokesperson for Ohtani declined to comment.

ESPN received no confirmation from any of the likely local, state or federal agencies that could investigate allegations of theft that they received a report from Ohtani’s camp.

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