Former Top Official Jailed Over Japan Casino Corruption

September 7, 2021
Back
The politician formerly at the head of Japan’s integrated resort (IR) project, Tsukasa Akimoto, has been jailed for four years for receiving bribes from a Chinese gaming company and interfering with witness testimony.

Body

The politician formerly at the head of Japan’s integrated resort (IR) project, Tsukasa Akimoto, has been jailed for four years for receiving bribes from a Chinese gaming company and interfering with witness testimony.

The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday found Akimoto, 49, guilty of corruption, jailed him for four years without sentence suspension and fined him ¥7.6m ($70,000). Akimoto pleaded not guilty on all counts.

The court said Akimoto received cash bribes of ¥3m and non-cash gifts and services totalling ¥4.6m between September 2017 and February 2018 from consultants to Shenzhen-based 500.com — a one-time gaming company and would-be Hokkaido IR consortium member.

“The statements of those who admitted to providing cash were fully credible as they were strongly supported by objective evidence,” Kyodo News quoted presiding judge Toshihiko Niwa as saying.

The court also accepted prosecutor evidence that Akimoto, while on bail in mid-2020, offered incentives to two former 500.com associates called as witnesses in the case to alter testimony in his favour.

Judge Niwa described the witness tampering as an “unprecedented obstruction of justice”.

Niwa also sentenced Akihiro Toyoshima, Akimoto’s former secretary, to two years in jail on Tuesday over his activity in the case, but the sentence was suspended for four years.

The scandal, which has cascaded since Akimoto’s arrest in December 2019, forced the rising political star out of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) caucus in the lower house of the Diet that month.

But he has retained his seat and will contest the upcoming election from jail if necessary, Kyodo News reported.

Akimoto, a former parliamentary secretary and vice minister of defence, was head of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism at the time of the offences and a key force for advancing IR policy within that ministry.

At that time, he was approached by 500.com and other parties looking to develop an IR in Hokkaido’s Rusutsu Village. Akimoto stayed at that village and travelled to Macau and Shenzhen with 500.com officials as part of the bribery scheme.

Akimoto’s prosecution and the convictions of numerous associates in relation to the case, including 500.com’s head of operations Zheng Xi and Hokkaido tourism mogul Kimihiro Kamori, are unrelated to current IR campaigns.

But the scandal has further harmed the gaming industry’s reputation, at one point forcing compliance revisions to the nation’s IR Basic Policy and significantly delaying the tender process.

All other individuals convicted in relation to the case have received suspended jail sentences, including Zheng Xi, Kamori, bribe-delivering 500.com consultants Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato, and businessmen Akihito Awaji and Fumihiko Sato, who attempted to bribe the consultants to change their testimony.

Chinese operator 500.com came to prominence when it secured one of two licences from the Chinese government to pilot that nation’s online lottery segment, a privilege soon lost when Beijing slapped a moratorium on online sales in 2015.

500.com, which cleared itself of wrongdoing in the Akimoto case after an internal investigation, has since shifted its focus to Bitcoin mining.

Our premium content is available to users of our services.

To view articles, please Log-in to your account, or sign up today for full access:

Opt in to hear about webinars, events, industry and product news

To find out more about Vixio, contact us today
No items found.