Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Japanese lawmaker admits to $9,300 bribe from Chinese casino operator

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A Japanese ruling party lawmaker has admitted to receiving 1 million yen ($9,300) from a Chinese gambling operator interested in joining Japan’s nascent casino market, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

But prosecutors will not build a case against Takaki Shirasuka on a bribery charge as the 45-year-old, who was a member of a cross-party group of lawmakers promoting casino resort projects, had no authority over the matter, the sources added.

Shirasuka, a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, visited the headquarters of the Chinese company 500.com Ltd. in Shenzhen and a casino in Macau in 2017, accompanied by then fellow LDP lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, who was indicted on bribery charges.

Akimoto, a former senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office who spearheaded Japan’s casino resort policy, left the LDP after his arrest in December. He is currently on bail after being indicted earlier this year on allegations that he accepted a total of 7.6 million yen from the Chinese company in 2017 and 2018.

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The charges include accepting payment of the expenses by the firm during the trip to China in December 2017.

Shirasuka accepted the 1 million yen from 500.com during the trip, the sources said. The Chinese firm also covered his gambling chips, they added.

A statement released by the lawmaker’s office Tuesday said that Shirasuka “cooperated sincerely with investigators and explained during his interviews with them that none of his actions constitute anything illegal.”

Japan recently legalized casinos to be operated at so-called integrated resorts comprising casinos alongside large hotels and conference hall facilities, in the hope of attracting more foreign tourists to invigorate the economy after the now-postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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