Tsukasa Akimoto Indicted on New Charge of Bribery

  • Akimoto allegedly received ¥2m ($18,428) in cash from a Chinese gambling operator
  • Company covered expenses totaling ¥1.55m ($14,000) for his trip to the firm’s headquarters
  • Three people with links to 500.com Ltd. have admitted to bribing Akimoto
man giving bribe money in a brown envelope
Tsukasa Akimoto has been indicted for allegedly receiving more money from China-based gambling operator 500.com. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Fresh charge for lawmaker

The Japanese lawmaker at the center of the country’s casino bribery scandal has been hit with a new charge of bribery.

An indictment issued on Monday states that Tsukasa Akimoto allegedly accepted another cash bribe of ¥2m ($18,428) from Chinese gambling operator 500.com Ltd.

Akimoto claims that the ¥2m ($18,428) payment was remuneration for giving speeches

He also had expenses of ¥1.55m ($14,000) covered following a trip to the company’s headquarters in 2017. Akimoto allegedly accepted this money despite knowing that the company was seeking preferential treatment.

The House of Representatives member denies any wrongdoing. Akimoto claims that the ¥2m ($18,428) payment was remuneration for giving speeches. He said his secretary was in charge of managing payment for the cost of his trip to the gambling company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

Previous charges against Akimoto

Before these latest bribery charges were leveled against Akimoto, he was accused of accepting ¥3m ($27,624) in cash from the gambling operator back in September 2017. It has also been alleged that a family holiday to Hokkaido in February 2018 was covered by ¥760,000 ($7,002) in expenses that were allegedly paid by the Chinese firm. 

Akimoto was formerly a member of the party in power in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party. As a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party, Akimoto was one of the main lawmakers leading the charge to legalize casino resorts in the country.

With this indictment, Akimoto has become the first incumbent lawmaker in the nation to be indicted in the past decade.

Bribery scandal rumbles on

Three other people are also facing indictments as part of this investigation.

Zheng Xi was previously an executive of 500.com’s unit in Japan. Katsunori Nakazato and Masahiko Konno were advisors for the gambling firm. All three have already confirmed that they gave bribes to Akimoto.

Public support for these integrated casino resorts in Japan is currently very low. Opposition parties were looking to file a bill that would dismantle the legislation that allows for these types of casinos. 

However, the ruling party wants to plow ahead with their plans, as these resorts will generate significant revenue for the government. Regulations for the sector have been delayed as a result of this scandal, but the timeline for awarding the three casino resort licenses in Japan remains the same.