Kimihito Kamori Receives Ten-Month Prison Term in 500.com Bribery Trial

  • Kamori was found guilty of providing Akimoto with a trip to Hokkaido in February 2018
  • Akimoto was arrested in December 2019 for accepting ¥7.6m in bribes from 500.com
  • The ongoing case has seen 500.com advisors admit to providing cash bribes
  • Japan's IR plans have been delayed further by the current COVID-19 pandemic
Judge's gavel
Former Kamori Kanko Co. chairman Kimihito Kamori has been sentenced to ten months in prison for charges of bribery in the ongoing 500.com IR scandal. [Image: Shutterstock]

Found guilty by District Court

A Tokyo District Court has sentenced Kimihito Kamori, former chairman of travel agency Kamori Kanko Co., to ten months in prison on charges of bribery. The case relates to former Japan House of Representatives member Tsukasa Akimoto and Chinese gambling operator 500.com.

According to the court’s ruling, Kamori conspired with two former advisors to 500.com. The three men bribed Akimoto so that he would support the operator’s bid for an integrated resort (IR) in Hokkaido, Japan. The ex-travel agency executive arranged a trip to Hokkaido for Akimoto and his family in February 2018, covering ¥760,000 ($7,204) in costs.

seriously undermined the fairness of duties and the trust of the people”

As reported by The Japan Times, the defense asked for leniency, arguing that Kamori had only been following the instructions of 500.com representatives. Toshihiko Niwa, the trial’s presiding judge, said Kamori’s actions had “seriously undermined the fairness of duties and the trust of the people.” The 77-year-old was ultimately sentenced to ten months in prison, suspended for two years.

The continued case of Akimoto

In 2017, Tsukasa Akimoto was a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, overseeing the Japanese government’s plans to introduce gambling to the country through IR projects. He is accused of accepting around ¥7.6m ($72,034) in bribes from representatives of 500.com during the period spanning 2017 and 2018.

the advisors both admitted to providing Akimoto with ¥3m in cash

Akimoto was first arrested in December last year. Three executives for the Chinese company were also arrested, including the former vice-president and two corporate advisors. In a recent trial, the advisors both admitted to providing Akimoto with ¥3m ($28,400) in cash in September of 2017. It is alleged that the company provided a further ¥4.6m ($43,500) worth of bribes by organizing trips for Akimoto to Hokkaido, Shenzhen, and Macau.

Although Akimoto was granted bail following his arrest last year, the former lawmaker was arrested again last month on accusations of witness tampering. According to The Japan Times, a phone seized from alleged co-conspirator Akihito Awaji suggested that Akimoto had attempted to bribe one of the former 500.com advisors to provide a false testimony. Akimoto reportedly afforded the advisor ¥10m ($94,600) in the proposition.

More delays to Japan’s IR plans

The ongoing bribery scandal surrounding Japanese IR projects is not the only issue causing problems for Japan’s gambling future. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced those overseeing the projects to reconsider the timetable for development of the resorts.

Last month, Kazuyoshi Akaba, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, confirmed that there could be some delays. At a press briefing, he said: “Some IR operators who have partnered with local governments are in a difficult situation due to the impact of the new coronavirus, and there have been opinions saying that the future is uncertain.”

The minister concluded that the government would “act carefully” moving forward.

The Japanese government has yet to establish a basic policy for IR projects despite expectations that this would be completed by July 26 of this year. A basic gambling framework must be passed before any IR development can take place in the country. According to Japanese news outlet Sankei Biz, Akaba said lawmakers were having to spend more time on policy making than anticipated as a result of the pandemic.