Admission of guilt
Mikio Shimoji of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) has admitted that his office received ¥1m ($9,251) from a Chinese gambling operator linked to a casino bribery scandal.
The 58-year-old lawmaker said this payment was accepted as a contribution to his general election campaign in 2017. He made the admission during a news conference in Okinawa Prefecture on Monday. He also said he plans to pay back the money and is considering whether to resign from his party.
received a payment of ¥1m ($9,251) in an envelope at his Naha office from a 500.com advisor
The Lower House member has been questioned by prosecutors in Tokyo for allegedly accepting bribes from a Chinese gambling company. Five other lawmakers in the region are undergoing similar questioning.
Shimoji is the first of six lawmakers to admit that he accepted cash from the Chinese gambling firm. He has confirmed that his office received a payment of ¥1m ($9,251) in an envelope at his Naha office from a 500.com advisor by the name of Mashiko Konno on October 15, 2017.
Money not declared
Shimoji failed to declare this payment in his funds and expenditure report, as is required for those engaging in political campaigns or related activities. Speaking about his decision to accept the payment without declaring it, Shimoji said:
It is something that I regret extremely.”
Despite accepting this money, Shimoji maintains that he never attempted to persuade anyone in the government, or any related government agency, to give preference to this Chinese gambling operator.
Prosecutors were told by 500.com advisor, Katsunori Nakazato, that he gave about ¥1m ($9,251) to five different lawmakers back in September 2017. He also allegedly paid ¥3.7m ($34,228) to Truskasa Akimoto in cash.
The other lawmakers have denied all allegations to date. This includes former Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya.
Japan casino scandal
Details of this casino bribery scandal initially surfaced after Truskasa Akimoto, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, was arrested. Akimoto was strongly pushing for the legalization of casino resorts in the country.
Akimoto was arrested in December 2019 for allegedly accepting ¥3.7m ($34,228) in bribes from 500.com Ltd. Akimoto was detained by authorities in Tokyo on December 25. They can hold him until January 14, although an extension can be approved by the Tokyo District Court.
Commercial casinos became legal in Japan in recent years, with casino resort legalization following suit in 2018, with three licenses to be made available for these resort facilities. The awarding of these licenses is yet to take place, but this was expected to happen at some stage in 2020.
With this casino bribery scandal coming to light, it looks like a lengthy delay is on the cards.