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Japan – Japanese lawmaker facing second warrant arrest over casino bribery allegations

By - 15 January 2020

Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto of the House of Representatives has been issued with a second arrest warrant by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office over allegations involving bribery regarding the country’s process of issuing three casino licences.

Mr. Akimoto was given the role of Cabinet Office state minister in charge of the government’s initiative to launch casino resorts.

Special investigators claim travel expenses he accrued during trips to China and lecture fees, totalling 7.3m yen, ($67,600) were paid for by a Chinese company looking to land a licence in Hokkaido or in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa equated to bribes. The company is believed to be 500.com. It is alleged he was paid money by the company to give a speech in August 2017 at a casino symposium in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.

On top of these ‘costs’, further bribes attributed to Mr. Akimoto equate to 3.7m yen ($33,800). A further five members of the Diet are believed to have been paid 1m yen each with one so far admitting that the amount had not been accounted for in his political funds report. Mr. Akimoto was first arrested on December 25.

So far, government officials have played down the scandal. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “The Chinese company under investigation does not have much of a track record. They’re out of their league when it comes to integrated resorts.”

Concurrently, Pan Zhengming, the chief executive of Chinese sports betting company 500.com, has stepped down from his position until an internal committee completes their investigation into ‘alleged illegal money transfers and the role played by consultants,’ according to the company.

Tokyo prosecutors have already arrested a former head of 500.com’s Japan operations and two former consultants, suspected of bribery.

A recent survey by Kyodo News has shown that 71 per cent of those questioned believe the government should now revisit plans to launch Integrated Casino Resorts in Japan.

The news comes as Japan’s Casino Advisory Committee said it was looking at Nevada’s gaming laws as it moves to shape its own governing principles. Former Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) Chair Becky Harris is known to have travelled to Osaka and Tokyo earlier this month.

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