Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto, known as a proponent of casino resorts in that country, received a new indictment on Monday on an additional charge of receiving bribe money from China-based gaming firm 500.com Ltd. Japanese prosecutors said Mr Akimoto received the money despite knowing the firm was seeking favourable treatment relating to its pursuit of a Japan integrated resort (IR) scheme, reported Japanese media outlets.
According to the latest indictment, the 48-year-old Mr Akimoto – who resigned from the governing Liberal Democratic Party after his initial arrest on December 25 – was additionally charged with allegedly receiving JPY2 million (US$18,414) from 500.com, an amount transferred in September 2017 as “speaking fees” to a bank account linked to the Japanese politician.
Mr Akimoto was also suspected of having an aggregate of JPY1.85 million covered by the Chinese firm as travel expenses relating to a trip to China in 2017, including a visit to some of Macau casinos in December of the same year, reported Japanese media citing the latest indictment.
Since his arrest in December, Mr Akimoto has denied any wrongdoing.
The politician was responsible for overseeing Japan’s push for hosting integrated resorts – or “IR” as large-scale casino complexes are known in Japan – when he served as a senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office for about a year through October 2018.
Last month, Mr Akimoto was indicted for allegedly receiving JPY3 million in cash from 500.com in September 2017, and was suspected of receiving about JPY760,000 in expenses for a family trip to Hokkaido in February 2018.
Mr Akimoto said previously that his office secretary dealt with all payments related with his trips. Prosecutors have also indicted Mr Akimoto’s former secretary in connection with the case, according to media reports.
The Chinese firm announced on December 31 that it would investigate the bribery claims; and reported the resignation of its chairman and the temporary departure of its chief executive pending the results of the internal probe. On Sunday, 500.com said its CEO Zhengming Pan had officially resigned effective that day.
The alleged bribery case involving Mr Akimoto has stirred concerns in Japan, with the country’s opposition lawmakers raising questions on how private-sector suitors for casino licensing in Japan had sought to influence key public officials. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the parliament last month that his administration would still be pursuing IR schemes, as an economic stimulant aimed at boosting the country’s tourism business.
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