A Japanese lawmaker who played an instrumental role in the legalization and promotion of casino gambling in the country was indicted on bribery charges on Tuesday and was served with a fresh arrest warrant for allegedly receiving millions of yen from a Chinese gambling company to spearhead its bid to build a casino in Japan.
Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party, was arrested on December 25, 2019 over allegations that he had received cash from Chinese online sports lottery company 500.com to help it win a license for an integrated resort with a dedicated casino floor in Hokkaido.
The lawmaker served as a senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office for about a year and was tasked with overseeing the drafting of a policy allowing for the development of up to three casino resorts in Japan.
On Tuesday, Mr. Akimoto was indicted on charges of taking a JPY3 million bribe from 500.com advisers in his office in Tokyo in late September 2017, when the House of Representatives he was a member of was dissolved for a snap election called by Prime Minister Abe.
Along with his indictment, the disgraced lawmaker was also served with a new arrest warrant for allegedly taking more money than what initial evidence showed.
Fresh Bribery Allegations
Tokyo prosecutors served Mr. Akimoto with a fresh arrest warrant for allegedly taking an additional JPY2 million from 500.com and for admitting that the expenses for a trip worth JPY1.5 million to the gambling operator’s corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, China were, too, covered by 500.com.
According to prosecutors, the lawmaker accepted more than JPY7 million in bribes in cash and in the form of trip expenses altogether. Aside from his visit to 500.com’s headquarters, the company also allegedly treated Mr. Akimoto to a family trip to Hokkaido in February 2018.
The lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing and has told investigators that he did not remember taking cash from 500.com and that his secretary was the person who dealt with all payments for his trips.
Mr. Akimoto’s former secretary, Akihiro Toyoshima was also indicted in connection with the bribery case.
According to the latest reports from local media, 500.com asked Mr. Akimoto to lobby for an increase in the number of casino licenses up for grabs from to five from three. The Chinese company established an office in Japan in the summer of 2017. About six months later, it revealed plans to pursue development opportunities in Hokkaido.
The former executive of 500.com’s Japanese arm, Zheng Xi, as well as former company advisers Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato were, too, served with fresh arrest warrants. All three were arrested late last year for their alleged involvement in the bribery scandal.
Source: Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto indicted and faces fresh bribery charge in case linked to Chinese casino firm
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