Japanese MP admits receiving cash in Chinese casino bribery scandal

Monday 6th January 2020

Mikio Shimoji, 58, said he would consider whether to resign from the Japan Innovation Party.

A lower house member, Shimoji is one of five lawmakers who have been questioned by Tokyo prosecutors on a voluntary basis over their alleged receipt of cash from Chinese firm 500.com Ltd.

Japan recently legalised casinos, with the government planning to choose up to three locations for what it calls "integrated resorts" - complexes that include casinos along with hotels and conference facilities. They are expected to start operating in mid-2020s.

Shimoji had been questioned by prosecutors after Katsunori Nakazato, 47, who served as an adviser to the company, told investigators he had delivered around 1 million yen each to five lawmakers around September 2017, when he handed 3 million yen in cash to Akimoto, a source close to the matter said earlier.

Shimoji admitted that an employee at his office in Naha city, the capital of Okinawa prefecture, accepted an envelope with 1 million yen around October 15, 2017, from Masahiko Konno, another adviser to the company.

The money was not declared in campaign or political funds and expenditure reports. "It is something that I extremely regret," Shimoji said.

Shimoji, who belonged to a cross-party group of lawmakers promoting integrated resort projects, said he never tried to persuade any government agency to favour the Chinese company.

He also said he will return the money to Konno.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating if the five lawmakers or their secretaries received money in violation of the political funds control law, which bans donations from foreigners or foreign organisations.

Shimoji previously said that he had never received money from the company. The other lawmakers, including former Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya, 62, have denied the allegations.

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

"I was never asked to do something nor did a favour," added Iwaya, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member of the lower house.

Another LDP member, Hiroyuki Nakamura, 58, admitted he was questioned by prosecutors and also denied receiving cash from the company.

According to a report on political funds, an LDP branch headed by Nakamura received 2 million yen in donations on Sept. 26, 2017 from a Sapporo-based travel agency, which had planned a casino project in Rusutsu village in Hokkaido in northern Japan.

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