Chinese firm may have approached Japanese lawmaker Akimoto in bid to get into casino business | The Japan Times
Saturday 28th December 2019
A Chinese company suspected of bribing House of Representatives member Tsukasa Akimoto may have approached him in a bid to turn itself around through casino operations in Japan, informed sources said Saturday.
The Shenzhen-based online sports lottery provider, 500.com, saw its sales tumble after peaking in 2014, according to sources familiar with the situation and a private credit research agency.
The company, founded in 2001, logged record sales of ¥9.4 billion in 2014, a year after its stock listing on the New York Stock Exchange. But its sales plunged to ¥1.6 billion in 2015 and to ¥170 million in 2016, leaving an operating loss of ¥5.8 billion.
500.com set up a Japanese unit in July 2017. It organized a casino-related symposium in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, in August the same year to increase its name recognition. Akimoto was asked to give a keynote speech at the event.
The company initially planned to pay Akimoto ¥500,000 for the speech. But it raised the amount to ¥2 million after learning, three days after the speech, that Akimoto would became state minister in charge of a government plan to introduce casinos in the country.
When the Lower House was dissolved for a snap election on Sept. 28, 2017, 500.com gave ¥3 million in cash to Akimoto as a financial contribution to his election campaign.
Public prosecutors allege that the financial contribution was a bribe aimed at receiving preferential treatment from Akimoto for its attempt to launch a casino resort in Japan, the sources said.
On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested three people related to 500.com for allegedly bribing Akimoto.
The charges against them also included inviting Akimoto and his family to Hokkaido in February 2018 and shouldering their travel expenses.
The company showed its intention to invest in a Sapporo-based tourism company that was planning to open a casino report.
Akimoto was also arrested in the bribery case. He has denied the allegations.