Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto - charged on two occasions recently with bribery but released on bail last week regarding alleged payments from a Chinese firm that had reportedly lobbied in Japan to get a casino project there – held a press conference on Friday to protest his innocence.
The politician added he wanted in March to return to his duties as a lawmaker in the lower chamber of Japan’s parliament, the House of Representatives. Mr Akimoto, an adviser to the cabinet on IR matters for about 12 months up to October 2018 – no longer has membership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Mr Akimoto had been indicted for allegedly receiving money from China-based gaming firm 500.com Ltd which is said to have been seeking rights in Hokkaido to an integrated resort or “IR” as such schemes are known in Japan. Public prosecutors claim the money was given in expectation of favours. Mr Akimoto says that was not the case. He had been released on February 12 – following about a month-and-a-half in custody – after providing JPY30 million (about US$273,000) in bail.
“I have never given favours to specific companies,” Mr Akimoto was cited as saying at his Friday media briefing in Tokyo, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.
Mr Akimoto had been charged – in two separate indictments – for allegedly receiving an aggregate of JPY7.6 million in cash and other gifts from 500.com Ltd in 2017 and 2018.
The politician – who resigned from the LDP after his initial arrest on December 25 – remains a member of House of Representatives. At the Friday press conference, Mr Akimoto also noted that he would “focus” for “the time being” on his expected court trial for bribery, Kyodo reported.
His case has stirred concerns in Japan, with some of the country’s opposition lawmakers raising questions regarding the extent to which private-sector suitors for casino licensing might have sought to influence key public officials.
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"The casinos have to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The decision [to suspend casino operations] is up to the government. As of now, we don’t have any plan to change the existing regulations"
Lei Wai Nong
Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance