Japanese Casino Scandal Leads to New Charge Against House of Representative Official

Posted on: September 9, 2020, 08:55h. 

Last updated on: September 10, 2020, 11:40h.

A Japanese bribery scheme has resulted in continuing criminal counts against Tsukaa Akimoto, a high-ranking politician who once shaped resort casino development in the East Asian nation.

Tsukaa Akimoto has denied wrongdoing
Tsukaa Akimoto was charged for the second time in an alleged money-for-perjury scheme in Japan linked to China-based 500.com Ltd. (Image: FMT)

On Wednesday, the 48-year-old House of Representatives member was charged for the second time in an alleged money-for-perjury plot linked to China-based online gaming company 500.com Ltd.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office claims Akimoto initiated a scheme where an acquaintance, Daisuke Matsuura, 51, attempted to bribe Katsunori Nakazato, 48, an ex-advisor to 500.com, in exchange for false statements in court.

Lifetime Offer to Take Care of Advisor

During a dinner in June, Matsuura allegedly told Nakazato he would “take care of him for life,” Inside Asian Gaming reported. He later claimed Akimoto asked him to make the offer. The politician denies the allegation

In July, another man, Kazuhiro Miyatake, who was described as an acquaintance of Matsuura’s, offered $47,000 to Nakazato in an attempted bribe, police said.

Last month, Akimoto was additionally arrested for a claimed conspiratorial role. That part claims $283,000 was allegedly offered by three men to Masahiko Konno, 49, who was also an ex-adviser to 500.com. That alleged attempted bribe came in exchange for more false court testimony. Akimoto also denied that allegation.

Akihito Awaji, Fumihiko Sato, and Kazuhiro Miyatake were indicted for the alleged bribe. According to South China Morning Post sources, Akimoto’s fingerprints were found on one of the bundles of cash used in the attempted bribe.

In a related case, last month two ex-advisers to 500.com pleaded guilty to bribing Akimoto. The Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper, reported that Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato admitted to the Tokyo District Court they paid Akimoto $72,000 in bribes in return for favorable treatment.

But Akimoto denied accepting kickbacks for furthering the interests of 500.com Ltd. and its pursuit of a casino in Hokkaido province. The Hokkaido gaming property proposal has failed to move forward because of local concerns.

Number of Casino Licenses Remains at Three

The case further revealed that 500.com also wanted Akimoto to increase the number of highly coveted casino licenses available nationwide from three to five. But Japan will only initially approve three casino licenses, despite the effort.

Altogether, Akimoto has been charged four times in the scandal. He was first arrested in December 2019, and again in January.

Based on their inquiry, officials claim Akimoto accepted approximately $69,000 in cash and gifts from 500.com during 2017 and 2018 while he oversaw Japan’s effort to legalize casinos as a Cabinet Office deputy minister.

In February, Akimoto denied the earlier allegations. “I have never given favors to specific companies,” Akimoto was quoted by The Japan Times.

An earlier case also claims Akimoto was allegedly paid over $18,000 by 500.com. The company also allegedly paid for travel costs of about $6,900 for him to meet with officials at its Shenzhen headquarters.