Japan lawmaker indicted for casino bribery to be released on bail

Wednesday 12th February 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A Japanese lawmaker who was indicted on charges of taking bribes from a Chinese company interested in entering Japan's nascent casino market will be released after paying 30 million yen ($270,000) in bail, a court official said Wednesday.

Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, has been indicted for receiving a total of 7.6 million yen from the Chinese firm, 500.com, in 2017 and 2018. The House of Representatives member, who has spearheaded Japan's move to legalize casino resorts, has denied the allegations.

His release followed the Tokyo District Court's denial Monday of an appeal made by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office against the court's decision to grant him bail. The defense team for Akimoto, who was arrested on Dec. 25, had requested bail on Feb. 3.

Japan recently legalized casinos to be operated at so-called integrated resorts with hotels and conference facilities, in the hope of attracting more foreign tourists and boosting the economy.

The former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party oversaw the initiative as senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office for about a year through October 2018.

Three others -- Zheng Xi, 37, a former executive of the Chinese firm's Japanese unit, and Masahiko Konno, 48, and Katsunori Nakazato, 47, who both served as advisers to the gambling operator -- have been charged with bribery.

The Tokyo court also granted bail Monday to Nakazato, set at 6 million yen. Zheng and Konno have already been released on bail.

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