Saturday, October 31, 2020

Japan lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto faces new arrest warrant over casino bribery scandal

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Prosecutors are expected to serve a fresh arrest warrant Tuesday on lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, following his arrest late last month for allegedly receiving ¥3.7 million in bribes from a Chinese company over a casino project, sources said Monday.

The special investigation team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office suspects that Akimoto, a 48-year-old member of the House of Representatives, accepted ¥2 million in cash, described as speaking fees, from the firm 500.com and also had the company shoulder costs for a trip to Shenzhen to visit its head office in the Chinese city, according to the sources.

The Chinese company, which was planning to participate in a casino project in Hokkaido, asked Akimoto in August 2017 to deliver a speech at a related symposium in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. The firm raised its payment for the speech to ¥2 million from the initially planned ¥500,000 right after it learned he would be assigned days later to the post of Cabinet Office state minister in charge of the government’s initiative to launch casino resorts, the sources said.

In December 2017, Akimoto visited Macau as well as the Shenzhen headquarters of 500.com.

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An income and spending report compiled by a group of his supporters had records of ¥1.28 million in outlays for each trip. But the team of prosecutors strongly suspects that the travel costs were covered by 500.com, the sources said.

The team believes that the speech fees and the provision of funds for travel costs were bribes that the firm offered to Akimoto anticipating favorable treatment from him in relation to the casino resort it was planning to open in Japan, according to the sources.

The special investigation team arrested Akimoto on Dec. 25 on suspicion that he had accepted ¥3 million in cash from 500.com in late September 2017 and had the company cover ¥700,000 in costs for a family trip to the village of Rusutsu in Hokkaido in mid-February 2018.

Akimoto has denied the allegations, saying that he did not receive cash from 500.com and that he thought the travel costs were handled by his secretary or his office, according to his lawyer.

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