Tsukasa Akimoto, a Japanese politician who played a key role in the ongoing process to legalize casinos, was indicted again in connection with a suspected bribery scheme.
Akimoto, 48, was allegedly paid over $18,000 by 500.com Ltd., an online gambling business based in China. The company also allegedly paid for travel costs of about $6,900 for him to meet with officials at its Shenzhen headquarters.
The third set of allegations against the House of Representatives member related to gaming chips allegedly provided at a Macau casino and gifts from 500.com, Inside Asian Gaming reported.
I am not aware of any casino chips provided to me. I planned to purchase the brand goods myself, but the company ended up paying for it. I planned to return the hospitality at some point in time, so I don’t believe this is a bribe,” Inside Asian Gaming quoted Akimoto in response to the charges.
In January, Akimoto was indicted for allegedly accepting over $27,000 from 500.com in September 2017. Officials also claim he was given money by the same company to cover costs of a family vacation to Hokkaido in February 2018.
Akimoto Denies Wrongdoing
Akimoto claims he never did anything wrong. He said the money mentioned in a recent indictment was reimbursement for giving speeches, and claimed he is covering the costs of the trip to China, the Japan Times reported, citing unnamed sources.
The Tokyo Public Prosecutor arrested Akimoto on Christmas Day. Last December’s indictment marks the first time in a decade a lawmaker in Japan has been indicted.
The Japan Times further reported how three other suspects were indicted in the inquiry. They include Zheng Xi, 37, who used to work for 500.com, as well as Masahiko Konno, 48, and Katsunori Nakazato, 47, who were company advisers. The trio each claim they bribed Akimoto, the report adds.
Last month, the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s staff also raided a gaming company office. It was not a 500.com office, news reports said.
Reports claimed Akimoto appears to have visited one of Melco’s Macau integrated resorts in 2017.
Japan Casino Licensing Process Proceeds
Despite the scandal, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the national government will continue with its plan to license three new integrated resorts. The submission period for applicants is expected to run from January 4, 2021 to July 30, 2021.
In November, Hokkaido’s governor, Naomichi Suzuki, withdrew the region from consideration for a gaming venue, citing environmental concerns. Last month, Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai said his city is exiting the gaming venue competition, too. Also, Kitakyushu’s mayor recently withdrew that city from the licensing process.
A recent survey by Kyodo News indicates that nearly 71 percent of those polled in Japan believe their government should revisit plans to embrace integrated resorts. Just over 21 percent of those polled believe the country’s plans to embrace casino gaming should proceed.
But last week, Yokohama Deputy Mayor Toshihide Hirahara said an integrated resort will drive new tourism to Japan’s second-largest city and bolster tax revenue.