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Dodgers Terminate Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Amid Scandal

The Los Angeles Dodgers have terminated the contract of Shohei Ohtani’s long-time interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, following allegations of involvement in illegal gambling and theft. According to ESPN reports, approximately $4.5 million was transferred from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaker, although Ohtani himself is not implicated in any wrongdoing. Mizuhara spoke to ESPN regarding the matter on Tuesday. The news of Mizuhara’s termination comes as Ohtani made his regular season debut with the Dodgers. The team’s senior communications director confirmed to the BBC that they are currently gathering information on the situation.

Sports betting is legal in 38 states across America, but it remains prohibited in California. Major League Baseball (MLB) has its own strict policy prohibiting any player, umpire, or club official from betting on baseball games or engaging with illegal bookmakers. ESPN reported that they reviewed bank records showing two payments of $500,000 each, sent in September and October, from Shohei Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation run by Mathew Bowyer.

However, Bowyer was investigated by a prosecution team targeting illegal sports betting schemes, though he was not charged with any crime, as per the Los Angeles Times. During an interview, Ohtani’s long-time interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, allegedly confessed to asking the baseball star for assistance with his gambling debts.

“Obviously, [Ohtani] wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mr. Mizuhara reportedly said. “I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again.”

Initially, a spokesman for Ohtani informed ESPN that the former Los Angeles Angels star had transferred funds to cover his interpreter’s gambling debts, but this account has since been debunked. Mr. Mizuhara himself has reportedly changed his story, now stating that Ohtani was unaware of the gambling debts and did not transfer any money.

The LA Times reported that Ohtani’s attorneys have accused his interpreter of “massive theft”.

A statement reportedly from West Hollywood law firm Berk Brettler stated, “In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.” The BBC has reached out to the law firm for confirmation.

Shohei Ohtani recently inked a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers, following his second unanimous American League MVP award. His journey in the US began in 2018, with Mr. Mizuhara serving as a constant companion. Recently, a photo emerged revealing Ohtani’s wife, Mamiko Tanaka, ending weeks of speculation. Mr. Mizuhara’s skill in interpreting Ohtani’s comments into colloquial English has garnered widespread praise in Japan.


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