Japanese Lawmaker’s Detention Extended as Casino Bribery Scandal Brews On

A Tokyo court earlier today gave the nod to a request from city prosecutors to extend the detention of Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto through January 14.

Mr. Akimoto, a former member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who served in the lower house of the country’s government, was arrested late in December over allegations that he had received bribes from a Chinese gambling firm to back its bid to build a casino resort in Hokkaido.

The lawmaker maintains his innocence and says that he has not done anything wrong. Mr. Akimoto resigned from Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe-led LDP after he was arrested on December 25.

The Tokyo District Court this morning also decided to prolong the detention of three individuals linked to 500.com, the company that allegedly bribed the Japanese lawmaker in its pursuit to enter Japan’s casino market. The three arrested individuals are suspected to have handed the bribe to Mr. Akimoto.

News emerged in December that Mr. Akimoto allegedly took JPY3 million in cash from 500.com, a Chinese company known to be providing online sports lottery services. According to prosecutors, the lawmaker received the bribe in September 2017.

It is also believed that 500.com covered the expenses (JPY700,000) for a trip to Hokkaido that Mr. Akimoto and his family took in February 2018. The former LDP lawmaker told prosecutors that he paid for the trip himself.

Five More Lawmakers Named in Bribery Scandal

Mr. Akimoto might not be the only lawmaker that has been bribed to treat 500.com preferentially during the selection process for casino operators, according to recent reports from Japanese news outlets.

Katsunori Nakazado, an adviser to the Chinese gambling operator, reportedly told investigators that he personally handed JPY1 million to each of five more Japanese legislators around September 2017. The names of the five lawmakers allegedly involved in the brewing bribery scandal are yet to be revealed.

Japan’s casino expansion push involves the introduction of integrated resorts that will feature dedicated Las Vegas-style gaming floors, among a number of other amenities. Up to three resorts are set to be built as part of the initial phase of bringing casino gambling to the country.

500.com is believed to have sought participation in an integrated resort scheme in Hokkaido. However, the province announced that it had decided to drop from the casino resort race due to concerns over the environmental impact a project of this scale would have.

Mr. Akimoto has long been a staunch supporter of the legalization of casinos as part of larger integrated resorts. He was in charge of overseeing the drafting of a government policy that aimed to pave the way for the introduction of integrated resorts when he served as a senior vice minister in the Cabinet for about a year until October 2018.

Source: Japanese lawmaker’s detention extended in casino-bribery scandal, The Mainichi Shimbun

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