500.com Says Internal Investigation Clears Company of Wrongdoing in Japanese Bribery Case

  • Law firm King & Wood Mallesons did not find a “sufficient basis” for any legal violations
  • Consultants to 500.com bribed a Japanese lawmaker for casino license favors
  • Tsukasa Akimoto attempted to pay off at least one consultant to make false statements
Detective evidence board
500.com has announced that an internal investigation turned up no legal violations by the company in the case of two consultants bribing a Japanese lawmaker in exchange for casino license priority. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Independent law firm conducted investigation

Chinese online gambling company 500.com has announced the completion of an internal investigation of alleged illegal payments to a Japanese lawmaker. In a brief press release, the company said that King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), the law firm it hired to conduct the investigation, did not find any wrongdoing by the company.

did not find a sufficient basis to establish a violation”

KWM told the 500.com board of directors’ Special Investigation Committee (SIC) that “it did not find a sufficient basis to establish a violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 in connection with the Company’s prior activities in Japan.”

The law firm did not publicly provide any detail as to its findings, though one might assume that such information was included in any report given to the SIC.

The company says that after taking suggestions from KWM under consideration, it has updated “policies, procedures, and internal controls.”

Japanese lawmaker took bribes

Regardless of what 500.com says about itself, there is no question that some shady dealings were afoot in late 2017 and early 2018. In August, Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato, former advisors to the company, admitted in court to bribing Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto.

Akimoto was the head of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, in charge of getting the country’s casino industry going. Konno and Nakazato are accused of paying Akimoto ¥3m ($28,298) to give 500.com an advantage in the contest for one of Japan’s three integrated resort (IR) licenses.

They added another ¥7.5m ($70,744) to pay for Akimoto’s travel expenses to 500.com’s headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong.

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

In September, a third man, Kimihito Kamori, the former chairman of travel agency Kamori Kanko Co., was sentenced to ten months in prison for his role in bribing Akimoto. Conspiring with Konno and Nakazato, Kamori covered ¥760,000 ($7,169) in travel costs for an Akimoto family trip.

The sentencing judge told the 77-year-old Kamori that he had “seriously undermined the fairness of duties and the trust of the people.”

Attempted to pay for silence

Akimoto was arrested in December 2019 and released on bail in February 2020. In August, however, he was taken into custody once more on witness tampering charges.

He is suspected of offering Konno ¥30m ($282,976) to provide false testimony. Akimoto allegedly used an accomplice to pay Konno the money, cash on which his fingerprints were found. Additionally, according to a report from The Japan Times, e-mails on the phone of suspected conspirator Akihito Awaji indicate that he and Akimoto discussed a plan to try to get Konno to make false statements. Also involved was a corporate executive named Fumihiko Sato.

There were two attempts to sway Konno to perjure himself, one for ¥10m ($94,325) and another for ¥20m ($188,651).

Authorities also believe Akimoto attempted to pay off Nakazato with the assistance of corporate executive Kazuhiro Miyatake and another person in charge of a Tokyo consulting firm.