Embattled Japanese Lawmaker Faces Fresh Grilling in Casino Bribery Case


Disgraced Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto is set to be questioned by Tokyo prosecutors over his possible involvement in alleged witness tampering in a high-profile casino bribery scandal that led to Mr. Akimotoโ€™s indictment earlier this year.

The former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker was arrested late in 2019 for allegedly taking bribes to spearhead Chinese sports lottery firm 500.comโ€™s efforts to win the right to build and operate an integrated casino resort in Japan.

Local news outlets report that the special investigation team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutorโ€™s Office arrested earlier this month corporate executive Akihito Awaji and two other people for allegedly persuading suspected bribers linked to the Chinese gambling company to commit perjury and testify in favor of Akimoto in his trial.

Mr. Akimoto was indicted on bribery charges this past January and was released on JPY30 million (approx. $282,706) bail in early February. He was the first sitting Japanese legislator to be charged with a crime in over a decade. The embattled lawmaker, who left the Liberal Democratic Party shortly after his arrest in December 2019, has maintained his innocence and has denied accepting money to help 500.com win a casino license.

Alleged Witness Tempering

The suspected bribers who allegedly gave cash to Mr. Akimoto back in 2017 when 500.com had just started its campaign to expand in Japan were also indicted earlier in 2020.

Tokyo prosecutors now want to confirm whether the embattled lawmaker was acquainted with the people who allegedly attempted to have the suspected bribers commit perjury in relation to the bribery case and whether he was involved in the suspected witness tempering.

Mr. Akimoto is known to be acquainted with Mr. Awaji. The two are believed to have met in February after the lawmaker was released on bail.

On August 4, Mr. Awaji and two other corporate executives โ€“ Fumihiko Sato and Kazuhiro Miyatake โ€“ were arrested for allegedly trying to persuade the suspected bribers to give false testimony when asked whether they have given bribes to Mr. Akimoto.

According to sources, Mr. Awaji and Mr. Sato allegedly told one of the suspected bribers in late June that they would give him JPY10 million in return for making statements in favor of Mr. Akimoto. Mr. Awaji is also suspected of attempting to offer JPY20 million to another briber in late July.

As for Mr. Miyatake, he was arrested for allegedly asking Katsunori Nakazato, a third suspected briber and a former adviser to 500.com, to commit perjury in exchange for the continuous supply of funds.

The first court hearing for the suspected bribers is scheduled to be held on Wednesday. They are suspected of giving JPY3 million to Mr. Akimoto at the lawmakerโ€™s office in September 2017. Mr. Awaji and the other corporate executives allegedly asked the bribers to give false testimony in the trial and say they did not meet Mr. Akimoto in his office to offer him money.

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