Shohei Ohtani Speaks Out For First Time Since His Interpreter Was Fired Over Gambling Scandal

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani said he was “very saddened and shocked” in his first public statement since his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired from the Dodgers amidst media reports of Mizhurara’s alleged illegal gambling and theft. At least $4.5 million in wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account was sent through wire transfers to a bookmaker, ESPN reports.

“Ippei has been stealing money from my account and told lies,” the 29-year-old designated hitter said via his interpreter Will Ireton during a press conference Monday afternoon. Ohtani did not answer questions from the press.

Mizuhara has been tied to illegal bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, whose home was raided by federal agents last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sports betting is illegal in California, though 38 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow it in some form.

A spokesperson for Ohtani originally told ESPN that the funds sent from the baseball player’s account were meant to cover Mizuhara’s gambling debt. “Obviously, he [Ohtani] wasn't happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara told ESPN  on March 19. “I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal.”

But the following day, lawyers representing Ohtani said that the baseball player had been the “victim of massive theft,” and denied that Ohtani had sent the funds. On Wednesday, Mizuhara also told ESPN that Ohtani was not aware of his gambling debt and did not send any money over.

During Monday’s press conference, Ohtani said that after the press reached out to his representatives about his possible involvement in the sports betting scandal, Mizuhara had lied. “Ippei told to the media and my representatives that I, on behalf of a friend, paid off debts,” Ohtani said.

Ohtani said he first learned of Mizuhara’s gambling issue during a team meeting after his first game in South Korea. Because Mizuhara spoke in English, and Ohtani did not have a translator, he did not fully understand what was being said but “started to feel that there was something amiss.” Later, during a one-on-one conversation between the baseball player and his interpreter, Ohtani says he realized that Mizuhara had incurred a massive debt.

Ohtani says that he then contacted his representatives, the Dodgers, and his attorneys. He reiterated that he never agreed to make any payments to the bookmaker.

Bowyer’s attorney told the L.A. Times that Bowyer had never been in contact with Ohtani, adding that Bowyer has not been charged with a crime. Bowyer’s attorney did not immediately return TIME’s request for comment.

Major League Baseball policies say that employees are prohibited from placing any bets on a baseball game, or any other sports via an illegal bookmaking business. Mizuhara says he bet on international soccer, the NBA, NFL, and college football, but never baseball.

“The season is going to start, so I'm going to obviously let my lawyers handle matters from here on out, and I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now,” Ohtani said.

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