Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Gambling operator reveals it bribed five other lawmakers in Japan’s casino-bribery scandal

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An adviser to a Chinese gambling operator under investigation for allegedly bribing Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto over a casino resort project has told investigators that the company also gave cash to another five lawmakers, a source familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Katsunori Nakazato, the adviser to 500.com Ltd., said he handed 1 million yen ($9,200) each to the five lawmakers around September 2017 when 3 million yen was given to Akimoto, who as deputy minister was in charge of overseeing government policy on the introduction of “integrated resorts” comprising of casinos, hotels and conference hall facilities, the source said.

Some of the five belong to a cross-party group of lawmakers dedicated to promoting international tourism, according to the source.

Speaking to Kyodo News, one of the five lawmakers admitted to meeting with Nakazato, a former member of the Urasoe city assembly in Okinawa, without knowing he was advising the Chinese company.

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The lawmaker also denied receiving “even a penny” in cash from the company, adding it did not give donations or buy tickets for political events.

Aside from the alleged receipt of 3 million yen, Akimoto is also suspected of receiving around 700,000 yen from the Chinese company to cover travel expenses.

The company, which set up a subsidiary in Tokyo in July 2017, was keen to use Akimoto’s influence to enable it to participate in a casino resort project promoted by the village of Rusutsu in Hokkaido, according to other sources.

The lawmaker, who resigned from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party following his arrest on Dec. 25, has denied all allegations.

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Japan recently legalized casinos to be operated at integrated resorts in the hope of attracting more foreign tourists to lift the economy after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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