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MLB: Ohtani ‘sad and shocked’ after interpreter accused of theft in betting scandal

Two-time MLB MVP Shohei Ohtani says he is “sad and shocked” after his interpreter was accused of stealing his money to fund illegal sports betting.

Ippei Mizuhara, who had served as Ohtani’s interpreter since the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher arrived in the United States back in 2018, was fired last week.

Ohani’s representatives have accused Mizuhara of “massive theft”, with reports suggesting at least $4.5million was transferred from Ohtani’s bank account to an illegal bookmaker in California.

Ohtani has not been accused of any wrongdoing, with the Internal Revenue Service now conducting a criminal investigation into the payments.

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Speaking through a new translator in the Dodgers’ manager of performance operations Will Ireton, Ohtani discussed the scandal in public for the first time on Monday.

“On a personal note, I’m very sad and shocked that someone who I’ve trusted has done this,” Ohtani, who is one of Japan’s most celebrated athletes, told reporters.

“To summarise how I’m feeling right now, I’m just beyond shocked. It’s really hard to verbalise how I’m feeling at this point.

“The season is going to start so obviously I am going to let my lawyers handle this from here on out. I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now.

“Now I’m looking forward to focusing on the season. I’m glad we had this opportunity to talk, and I’m sure there will be continuing investigations going forward.”

Mizuhara had told ESPN that the baseball star agreed to cover his gambling debts, a story which Ohtani’s representatives initially supported but later refuted.

None of the bets funded by the payments are believed to have been made on baseball, and Ohtani reiterated that he has never gambled on baseball or any other sport. If any MLB player was found to have done so, they could face a permanent ban from the sport.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or have never asked somebody to do that on my behalf,” Ohtani said.

“I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know that this was happening.”

Twelve states in the US have not legalised sports betting, with California being one of them, though unlicensed bookmakers continue to operate outside gambling laws even in states where it has been legalised.

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