Tokyo prosecutors arrested on Wednesday Tsukasa Akimoto, a lawmaker from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), on suspicion of accepting bribes from a Chinese company seeking to invest in that country’s nascent casino industry, reported several local media outlets. Mr Akimoto had reportedly served as a vice-minister in charge of promoting the establishment of casinos in the country.
Mr Akimoto was arrested on suspicion of receiving pay-offs of about JPY3.7 million yen (US$33,787), the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s office said in a statement, as quoted by the country’s state broadcaster NHK and by Kyodo news agency. The bribes included cash, plane tickets and hotel rooms, added the statement. The lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing and said he never extended any favours.
The company was not named in the indictment and prosecutors didn’t disclose what Mr Akimoto did in return for the bribes. Three other people related to the company were also arrested, prosecutors stated.
Prosecutors also searched the office of another LDP lawmaker, Takaki Shirasuka, as part of the bribery investigation, according to media reports.
The Chinese firm suspected of paying the bribes is said – according to Kyodo News – to run online gaming operations, and to be based in the Chinese mainland city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong. Executives of the firm are also suspected of smuggling several million yen in cash into Japan without declaring it to customs, according to the report.
Mr Akimoto oversaw casino resort policy as a senior Cabinet Office official until October 2018, reported the Nikkei Asian Review.
The term integrated resort or “IR” is used in Japan to describe large-scale casino complexes with supporting tourism infrastructure including hotels, meeting space, shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. A maximum of three will be permitted nationally in a first phase of market liberalisation.
This is the first time an incumbent Japanese lawmaker has been arrested since January 2010, reported the Nikkei Asian Review. Mr Akimoto, a third-term lower house member, first won a seat in that chamber of Japan’s parliament in 2010. He had been elected to the upper house in 2004.
The Nikkei Asian Review quoted Toshihiro Nikai, LDP’s secretary-general, as saying that the LDP had accepted on Wednesday Mr Akimoto’s resignation from the party.
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