Japan prosecutors to probe lawmaker over Chinese casino scandal

Tuesday 24th December 2019

TOKYO -- Tokyo prosecutors have decided to investigate a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker suspected of accepting illicit funds from a Chinese company seeking to set up a casino resort in Hokkaido, Nikkei has learned.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a lower house member deeply involved in crafting policy for so-called integrated casino resorts, is alleged to have taken money the Chinese company brought into the country in violation of the Foreign Exchange Law.

Prosecutors raided Akimoto's offices last week and will now try to untangle whether the money was funneled to him and how. Akimoto has categorically denied any wronging.

The Chinese company set up a Japan unit in July 2017 with plans to open a casino resort in the country. An employee in charge of Japanese operations and a former executive at the unit are suspected of bringing in more than 1 million yen in cash without reporting it to the customs office.

Prosecutors suspect that the Chinese company bribed Akimoto in hopes of a favorable outcome for its effort to enter Japan's nascent casino sector. Akimoto oversaw casino resort policy as a senior Cabinet Office official until October 2018

Akimoto delivered a keynote speech at an Okinawa symposium hosted by the Chinese company in Naha in August 2017. He repeatedly met with representatives from the company in such places as the Hokkaido village of Rusutsu, where the integrated resort was planned, as well as at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, where he doubled as state minister.

But the company's efforts came to naught when Hokkaido announced in November that it was not inviting an integrated resort. The Public Prosecutors Office searched Akimoto's former secretary's home in early December. It has also interviewed Akimoto on a voluntary basis.

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