Two Japanese men have each been given prison sentences after being found guilty of bribing Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto with the equivalent of US$72,000 over a previously-proposed casino scheme in Hokkaido prefecture in the north of the country.
The Tokyo District Court (pictured) sentenced Masahiko Konno to two years in prison, suspended for three years; and Katsunori Nakazato to one year and 10 months, also suspended for three years, according to Monday’s ruling, which was reported by Japanese media.
The pair were formerly advisors to Chinese firm 500.com Ltd, which was one of a number of companies interested in bidding for a licence for such a gaming complex scheme in Hokkaido. A total of three casino resorts, referred to in Japan as integrated resorts (IRs), are to be permitted across the nation in a first phase of liberalisation.
The governor of Hokkaido decided in November last year – prior to news breaking regarding the bribery allegations – not to put the prefecture forward as a candidate site in an initial phase of casino liberalisation in the country.
Mr Akimoto was arrested in late December 2019, on allegations he had been bribed in relation to pursuit of such a venture. Mr Akimoto had reportedly served as a vice-minister in charge of promoting the establishment of casinos in that nation.
The court found Mr Konno and Mr Nakazato had given Mr Akimoto, a former member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, a total of JPY7.6 million (about US$72,000) in bribes between 2017 and 2018, including coverage of travel expenses to China and Hokkaido.
Mr Konno and Mr Nakazato were given information relevant to the casino liberalisation process, “as a result of extravagant wining and dining” of Mr Akimoto, said Judge Toshihiko Niwa, in relation to the ruling, as cited by local media.
The pair had “severely undermined the impartiality of duties and public trust in a large-scale project promoted by the government,” the judge reportedly said.
In September, Mr Akimoto – who was released from custody in February - was indicted on a charge of allegedly offering money to Mr Konno and Mr Nakazato in exchange for false court testimony favourable to him.
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