Five other Japanese lawmakers may be involved in casino bribery scandal | The Japan Times

Friday 3rd January 2020

An adviser to a Chinese gambling operator that is under investigation for allegedly bribing lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, formerly a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, over a casino resort project, has told investigators that the company also gave cash to another five lawmakers, a source familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Katsunori Nakazato, the adviser to Ltd., said he handed ¥1 million each to the five lawmakers around September 2017, when ¥3 million was allegedly given to Akimoto, who as deputy minister was in charge of overseeing government policy on the introduction of casino resorts, the source said.

Some of the five belong to a cross-party group of lawmakers dedicated to promoting international tourism, according to the source.

One of the five lawmakers admitted to meeting with Nakazato, who was a former member of the Urasoe Municipal Assembly in Okinawa, without knowing he was advising the Chinese company.

The lawmaker also denied receiving "even a penny" in cash from the company, adding it did not give donations or buy tickets for political events.

Aside from the alleged gift of ¥3 million, Akimoto is also suspected of being invited by the company for a trip to Hokkaido with his family, with the company shouldering their travel expenses totaling some ¥700,000.

During investigations by the prosecutors, the suspects from the Chinese firm explained in detail how they offered the bribes to Akimoto and said they kept digital records of the bribes.

The company, which set up a subsidiary in Tokyo in July 2017, was keen to use Akimoto's influence to enable it to participate in a casino resort project promoted by the village of Rusutsu in Hokkaido, according to other sources.

The lawmaker, who resigned from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's LDP following his arrest on Dec. 25, has denied all allegations.

Japan recently legalized casinos in the hope of attracting more foreign tourists after the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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