The Tokyo District Court approved on Monday the release on bail of Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto, a supporter of the legalisation of casino resorts in that country, Japanese newswire service Jiji Press reported. Mr Akimoto has been indicted on bribe-taking charges for allegedly receiving money from a Chinese company seeking to invest in Japan’s nascent casino industry.
According to Jiji Press, Mr Akimoto’s bail was set at JPY30 million (US$273,236), which he paid the same day. Public prosecutors filed an appeal against the court decision, and the Lower House lawmaker – who resigned from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after his initial arrest on December 25 – will not be released until the appeal is processed, added Jiji Press.
Mr Akimoto was last week charged – in a second and additional indictment – with allegedly receiving JPY2 million from China-based gaming firm 500.com Ltd, an amount transferred in September 2017 as “speaking fees” to a bank account linked to the Japanese politician.
The 48-year-old lawmaker 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 last week’s indictment.
Mr Akimoto had first been 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.
Since his December arrest, Mr Akimoto has denied any wrongdoing.
The lawmaker 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.
Jiji Press reported on Monday that under his bail terms, Mr Akimoto is barred from contacting Takaki Shirasuka, a lawmaker of the ruling LDP, and former lawmaker Shigeaki Katsunuma. The two are said to have joined Mr Akimoto in the inspection tour of a Macau casino hosted in 2017 by 500.com.
Mr Akimoto is also prohibited from having contact with five other Japanese lawmakers, to whom former representatives of 500.com claim to have given cash worth JPY1 million each. The five members of Japan’s House of Representatives have been questioned – on a voluntary basis – by Japanese authorities for their alleged receipt of cash from people linked to the Chinese firm.
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 might have 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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