Shohei Ohtani breaks silence on interpreter gambling scandal: 'I never bet on baseball or any other sports'

Shohei Ohtani broke his silence on the gambling scandal surrounding his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, on Monday

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani spoke to the media Monday for the first time since his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired following accusations that he stole more than $4 million from Ohtani to cover his illegal gambling debts.

In a roughly 12-minute statement, Ohtani denied having ever bet on sports and said repeatedly that Mizuhara lied to him throughout the process.

“I am very saddened and shocked someone I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said through an interpreter at the beginning of his statement. He then denied being involved in sports gambling in any form.

"I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf," he said. "And I have never been through a bookmaker to bet on sports. ...

"Up until a couple days ago, I didn't know that this was happening. ... In conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies."

Ohtani also denied knowingly paying off any alleged gambling debts.

"To the representatives in my camp, Ippei told to the media and representatives that I on behalf of a friend paid off debt," he said. "Upon further questioning, it was revealed that it was actually in fact Ippei who was in debt and told my representatives that I was paying off those debts.

"All of this has been a complete lie."

Ohtani also told reporters that Mizuhara misled the Dodgers, telling the team that he had been in communication with Ohtani about the issue when, in fact, he had not.

Ohtani said he first heard about Mizuhara's alleged gambling during a team meeting after the Dodgers played the San Diego Padres in South Korea last week.

"Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt," Ohtani said. "Obviously, I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker."

Ohtani said that after the team meeting, he and Mizuhara had a one-on-one meeting at their hotel.

"And it was revealed to me during that meeting, Ippei admitted he was sending money using my account to the bookmaker," he said. "And at that moment, it was an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point."

Ohtani said that he contacted the Dodgers and his lawyers at that point and that his lawyers recommended he contact "the proper authorities" because "theft and fraud" were in play.

"In conclusion, I do want to make it clear that I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker," he said.

Ohtani concluded by saying that he was leaving the situation for his lawyers to handle and that he was "completely assisting in all investigations." He did not take questions.

This saga became public on March 20, with a bombshell ESPN report alleging that Mizuhara, Ohtani's longtime interpreter and friend, had been accused of a "massive theft" of Ohtani's funds to cover illegal gambling debts and had been fired by the Dodgers.

ESPN spoke to Mizuhara on March 19 for 90 minutes and laid out the first public version of the story, claiming that Ohtani paid off Mizuhara's gambling debts via wire transfer to help Mizuhara make a clean break from gambling.

That story didn't last long, though. By the end of the day, Mizuhara had recanted the whole thing shortly after Ohtani's attorneys at Berk Brettler LLP released a statement disavowing Mizuhara's story.

"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 statement read.

The change in the story from "Ohtani helped Mizuhara" to "Mizuhara stole from Ohtani" is difficult to ignore. It's also difficult to accept the explanation that Ohtani did not know about wire transfers from his bank account totaling more than $4 million.

In light of all this confusion, MLB announced Friday that they've opened an investigation into the situation. Since then, we've learned even more about Mizuhara, including apparent inaccuracies on his resume about graduating from UC Riverside and working for the Red Sox and Yankees.

Through all of this, Mizuhara has maintained that he never bet on baseball and that Ohtani had zero to do with his gambling.