Tag Archive : Lawmaker

Bribed Japanese Lawmaker Says He Never Took Bribes from 500.com

The lawmaker at the heart of the casino bribery scandal that shook Japan late last year stressed his innocence during a Friday press conference, telling journalists that he did not take bribes from a Chinese gambling firm seeking to win a license for a casino resort in Japan.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was arrested in December 2019 on suspicion that he accepted cash and different special treatments from Chinese online sports lottery operator 500.com to spearhead its bid to build an integrated resort with a dedicated casino floor in Hokkaido alongside a Japanese tourism agency.

The lawmaker has repeatedly denied the bribery allegations leveled against him and said that he has never favored any company seeking to enter Japan’s nascent casino market. Mr. Akimoto was released this week after paying a JPY30 million (approx. $270,000) bail.

At a press conference that lasted about 20 minutes and took place on Friday in an office building for members of the government’s House of Representatives, Mr. Akimoto once again said that he was innocent and that he has “never given favors to specific companies.”

The lawmaker, a member of the House of Representatives, is the first sitting Japanese legislator to be indicted in more than a decade. He left the LDP party a few days before his arrest.

”Never considered it a bribe”

Mr. Akimoto was indicted for allegedly receiving JPY7.6 million in cash and other treatments from 500.com in 2017 and 2018. At the time, the lawmaker served as a senior vice minister in charge of drafting the policy for the introduction of casino-style gaming in Japan.

According to Tokyo prosecutors, Mr. Akimoto received JPY2 million on September 1, 2017. The legislator said Friday that the money was a fee he was paid for delivering a speech at a 500.com-sponsored event. He also told journalists that he never considered the amount a bribe.

He also denied receiving another JPY3 million in cash from 500.com later in September 2017.

Aside from these two alleged incidents of Mr. Akimoto taking bribes from the Chinese gambling firm, investigators also found that 500.com treated the lawmaker to two trips and covered the expenses for those.

In December 2017, Mr. Akimoto visited the sports lottery operator’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China. In February 2018, he and his family took a trip to Hokkaido, which according to Tokyo prosecutors 500.com paid the expenses for.

The lawmaker said Friday that he instructed his former secretary to take care of the expenses for the trips and that he did not recognize them as constituting special treatment.

Mr. Akimoto also told journalists that for the time being he would focus on the trial. The lawmaker pushed back calls by opposition party members to give sworn testimony on the bribery scandal at the Diet.

Source: Lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto claims innocence in casino bribery cases

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Bribed Japanese Lawmaker Released on Bail

The senior Japanese lawmaker who was indicted on bribery charges for taking money from a Chinese gambling firm looking to enter Japan’s casino market was released on bail this past Wednesday, Japanese news outlets report.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was arrested on December 25 on suspicion of taking bribes from Chinese online sports lottery operator 500.com to spearhead the gambling company’s bid to win one of three casino licenses the Japanese government plans to award to interested operators.

Mr. Akimoto has been indicted for taking nearly JPY8 million in cash from 500.com between 2017 and 2018. He has denied all allegations leveled against him.

Until the fall of 2018, the lawmaker served as the senior vice minister in charge of overseeing the drafting of the Japanese government’s casino policy. The country legalized casino gambling in December 2016, but needs to complete a multi-step and multi-phase process before launching its first casinos.

According to the investigative team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Mr. Akimoto was approached by 500.com in the summer of 2017 and took bribes to spearhead the company’s bid to win the right to build an integrated casino resort in Hokkaido alongside a local tourism agency.

500.com Treated the Lawmaker to Various Trips

Aside from cash, Tokyo prosecutors also found that Mr. Akimoto was treated to several trips by 500.com. In late 2017, the lawmaker visited the gambling firm’s corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The expenses for that trip were covered by 500.com, according to records.

During the trip to China, Mr. Akimoto also visited a casino in Macau in a bid to gain knowledge of how the special administrative region’s gaming industry worked and use that knowledge in the crafting of his own country’s gaming policies.

In Macau, Mr. Akimoto allegedly asked the 500.com side to purchase some luxury items for him at a local shopping center. The embattled lawmaker admitted to accepting such items from his host, but told investigators that he “was going to buy the items, worth more than JPY100,000 in total, [himself], but the 500.com side paid for them” and that “this was within the scope of commonly accepted social norms.”

According to Tokyo prosecutors, 500.com also covered the expenses for a trip to Hokkaido Mr. Akimoto took with his family in February 2018.

The lawmaker’s defense team made a request that their client be released on bail on February 3. The Tokyo District Court granted him bail and then denied an appeal made by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office against the decision.

Mr. Akimoto paid JPY30 million (approx. $270,000) to be released. He is the first sitting Japanese legislator to be charged with a crime in more than a decade.

Source: Japanese lawmaker indicted for casino bribery released on bail

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