MLB launches investigation into Ohtani and ex-interpreter scandal. GETTY IMAGES

Major League Baseball (MLB) on Friday announced a formal investigation into the scandal involving pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and his former interpreter, saying the Los Angeles Dodgers superstar was the victim of a "massive theft," AFP and other sources reported.

The Dodgers fired Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani's longtime interpreter and close friend, on Thursday after the player's representatives claimed the he was the victim of a theft that reportedly involved millions of dollars and linked Mizuhara to an alleged illegal bookmaker in California. 

"Since learning of the allegations involving Ohtani and Mizuhara through the news media, the MLB has been gathering information and now our Department of Investigations has begun the formal process of investigating the matter," the organisation said in a statement. 

ESPN said that MLB can request interviews with all parties, including Ohtani and Mizuhara, although officials cannot compel Mizuhara's cooperation because he no longer works in the major leagues. 

The matter came to light this week when law firm Berk and Brettler issued a statement on behalf of Ohtani after receiving media inquiries about a federal investigation into alleged illegal bookmaker Mathew Bowyer in which the player's name surfaced. "We have discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft and we are turning the matter over to the authorities," the company pointed out. 

Ohtani can do almost anything at the highest level GETTY IMAGES
Ohtani can do almost anything at the highest level GETTY IMAGES

ESPN reported that questions had arisen "over at least $4.5 million in wire transfers from Ohtani's bank account" to an associate of Bowyer's and also said that several sources, including Mizuhara himself, told the media outlet that Ohtani didn't gamble and that the funds covered Mizuhara's losses. 

Bowyer's lawyer, Diane Bass, told the Los Angeles Times that Bowyer had no contact with Ohtani. MLB's gambling policy prohibits "any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee" from betting on baseball or placing illegal bets on any other sport. 

Ohtani himself has yet to comment on the affair, which has sparked intense speculation around MLB as the 2024 season gets underway. The 29-year-old Japanese joined the Dodgers in December on a 10-year deal worth a staggering $700 million after playing six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels in the biggest deal in sports history, beating out offers from the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays. 

His contract includes a $2 million in annual salary and $68 million in interest-free deferred annual payments, payable in $68 million instalments between 2034 and 2043.

Shohei Ohtani (R) and his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. GETTY IMAGES
Shohei Ohtani (R) and his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. GETTY IMAGES


-Ohtani's history with the Los Angeles' franchise began with a 5-2 win over the Padres in Seoul. 

-The Dodgers fired Mizuhara before losing 15-11 to the San Diego Padres in the second game. 

-Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had insisted it was "business as usual" for his team, but the new superstar will be under scrutiny as they prepare for their home opener against the Cardinals. 

-Ohtani's lawyers said he was the victim of theft, but ESPN has reported that Mizuhara claimed before an interview with the sports outlet that Ohtani had actually paid off his gambling debts of at least $4.5 million. 

-Before the interview was published, Mizuhara changed his version, insisting that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts and had not wired him the money. 

-CNN reported that the Internal Revenue Service is conducting an investigation involving Bowyer and Mizuhara.