Two Japanese Men Guilty of Bribing Lawmaker Receive Prison Sentences
Posted on: October 13, 2020, 08:30h.
Last updated on: October 13, 2020, 09:37h.
Two Japanese men were found guilty yesterday of bribing a lawmaker in the National Diet. They were issued prison sentences.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Masahiko Konno, 49, to two years in prison, and Katsunori Nakazato, 48, to a year and 10 months. Both of their sentences, however, will be delayed by three years.
Konno and Nakazato pleaded guilty to bribing Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, with ¥7.6 million ($72,000 USD) in exchange for details regarding Japan’s effort to legalize commercial gambling. The two men were advisors to 500.com Ltd, a Chinese online lottery firm that was interested in bidding for one of Japan’s three casino licenses. They admitted to bribing Akimoto from 2017 to 2018.
In Japan, offenders guilty of a crime that warrants prison time can qualify to have their sentences delayed, one condition being that they have not been imprisoned within the previous five years.
Suspended sentences are only afforded to those who are to serve less than three years in prison. Suspensions are revoked when the guilty person commits another crime or fails to obey their suspension conditions.
Prosecutors allege that Konno and Nakazato paid for travel and entertainment expenses for Akimoto. Calling it “extravagant wining and dining,” Tokyo District Court Judge Toshihiko Niwa said the two were seeking information on specific details for a casino resort project to qualify for consideration.
[They] severely undermined the impartiality of duties and public trust in a large-scale project promoted by the government,” Niwa said.
Attorneys representing Konno and Nakazato asked the Tokyo District Court to go easy on the two, because 500.com Ltd is no longer in the bidding war for a casino resort in Japan.
Akimoto has denied any guilt in the casino graft scheme. He was arrested in December of 2019 on allegations of being bribed. He was released on bail in February, and his case is ongoing.
Akimoto oversaw the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) process to develop the framework of Japan’s gaming industry. He was a senior vice minister in then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet Office in 2017-2018.
Abe resigned last month because of health reasons. His successor — Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga — says he remains committed to authorizing three integrated resorts.
Akimoto Faces New Charge
Along with bribery charges, Akimoto was hit with another allegation last month.
Prosecutors for the Japanese central government allege that Akimoto offered Konno and Nakazato JPY30 million ($285,000 USD) in exchange for them giving favorable testimony regarding his involvement in the casino graft.
500.com is facing a lawsuit in the US. The Block and Leviton LLP law firm says the Chinese company “concealed from investors that its executives were bribing Japanese lawmakers in order to secure development rights for a casino resort project in Japan.”
500.com is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Block and Leviton allege that 500.com violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits entities from bribing foreign government officials.
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