Ex-defense minister denies receiving cash over casino-bribery case

Saturday 4th January 2020

Japan's former Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya on Saturday denied receiving about 1 million yen in cash from a Chinese gambling operator involved in a suspected casino-bribery case.

Iwaya, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party member of the lower house, was one of five lawmakers who were questioned by Tokyo prosecutors on a voluntary basis for their alleged receipt of cash from the company, 500.com Ltd.

"I never received money," Iwaya, 62, told reporters in his Beppu constituency in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

Other LDP member Hiroyuki Nakamura, 58, admitted he was questioned by prosecutors and also denied receiving cash from the company. Donations from foreigners or foreign organizations are prohibited by the political funds control law.

The questioning came after Katsunori Nakazato, 47, who served as an adviser to the company, told investigators he delivered some 1 million yen each to the five lawmakers around September 2017 when he handed 3 million yen in cash to Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, then an LDP lawmaker who was arrested last month over the alleged bribery case, the source said.

Four of the five lawmakers belong to the LDP, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the other is a member of the opposition Japan Innovation Party, according to the investigative source.

Iwaya, Nakamura and the Japan Innovation Party member, Mikio Shimoji, 58, belonged to a cross-party group of lawmakers who advocated promoting so-called integrated resort projects.

Japan recently legalized casinos to be operated at integrated resorts in hopes of attracting more foreign tourists and helping to boost the economy after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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