Japanese lawmaker Toshimitsu Funahashi, a member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has this week admitted he accepted a JPY1-million (US$9,227) donation from a company that has been connected to a Chinese online gambling operator. The latter firm, 500.com Ltd, has in turn been accused of involvement in a bribery scandal tied to lobbying for a casino licence in that country.
Local media quoted Mr Funahashi as saying that the donation was from a Hokkaido-based tourism operator, not from the Chinese entity itself, and at the time he didn’t know about the connection.
“While I did receive the JPY1-million donation in a period just before the lower house election [in 2017], I have never received even JPY1 from anyone involved with a Chinese company,” Mr Funahashi said in a statement quoted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Mr Funahashi was one of five House of Representatives members that had been questioned by Japanese authorities – on a voluntary basis – for their alleged receipt of cash.
The allegations against the five lawmakers reportedly came to light as part of an investigation into another lower house lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested in late December for allegedly taking bribes from 500.com in connection with lobbying linked to a so-called integrated resort or “IR” scheme in Hokkaido.
In a statement, Mr Funahashi explained that he had mistakenly listed the donation received from an executive of a tourism operator based in Sapporo, Hokkaido, as “borrowed money” in the political funding report. The operator was said to be interested in developing a project in Hokkaido in partnership with 500.com, according to media reports.
The lawmaker was quoted by media outlets as saying that he handed over the cash to his office together with JPY4 million that he had extended to LDP’s Hokkaido branch as a loan. He further explained that as a result, the aggregate of JPY5 million had been listed as “borrowed money” in the political funding report.
Mr Funahashi said additionally that the political funding report had now been corrected, stating that JPY1 million had been donated by the Hokkaido-based tourism operator executive. While the lawmaker acknowledged being introduced to several Japanese executives with ties to 500.com in September 2017, he denied receiving money from the Chinese firm, reported the media outlets.
Local media had earlier reported that the five lawmakers questioned by Japanese authorities were alleged to have received around JPY1 million each from people linked to 500.com.
Mikio Shimoji, a member of the Japan Innovation Party, had said on Monday that his office had accepted and not declared to the authorities JPY1 million from the Chinese online gambling operator. The other lawmakers, including Japan’s former Defence Minister, Takeshi Iwaya, have denied the allegations.
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