Travel Agency Boss Admits to Bribing Japanese Lawmaker in Casino Bribery Case

A former chairman of a Japanese travel agency, which sought to build a casino resort in Hokkaido, admitted to bribing the lawmaker who was in charge of Japanโ€™s effort to legalize casino gambling, local news outlets report.

Kimihito Kamori, former chairman of Kamori Kanko Co., on Monday pleaded guilty before the Tokyo District Court to charges of bribing House of Representatives lawmaker and former Liberal Democratic Party member Tsukasa Akimoto.

Kamori Kanko, a travel agency firm based in Sapporo, Hokkaido, planned to build an integrated casino resort in Rusutsu in the prefecture. Chinese sports lottery firm wanted to take part in the project.

According to court papers, Mr. Akimoto was bribed by the two companies to spearhead their bid to build and operate a casino resort.

The lawmaker was arrested late last year on suspicion that he took bribes of more than JPY7.6 million to help and its Japanese partner win a casino license. Mr. Akimoto maintained his innocence and denied taking money while in charge of Japanโ€™s casino legalization effort.

He was indicted on bribery charges in January and was released on bail in February. Mr. Akimoto was the first sitting Japanese legislator to be charged with a crime in over a decade.

Witness Tampering Allegations

According to court documents, Mr. Kamori invited Mr. Akimoto and his family to Rusutsu in February 2018 and covered the costs for the trip in a bid to win favorable treatment for his company and 500.comโ€™s casino project.

Mr. Kamori had conspired with former advisers Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato to bribe the lawmaker.

Mr. Akimoto was rearrested last week for witness tampering that allegedly occurred after he was released on bail. Investigators from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutorโ€™s Office believe the lawmaker offered money to witnesses in the bribery case to falsely testify in court.

Mr. Akimoto said in court on Monday that he did not ask anyone to provide false testimony and that he was not involved in anything of that kind.

Police arrested earlier this month corporate executive Akihito Awaji and two other people for allegedly persuading suspected bribers linked to to commit perjury and testify in favor of Mr. Akimoto. Mr. Awaji, Fumihiko Sato and Kazuhiro Miyatake were indicted on witness tampering charges this past Monday.

According to the indictment, Mr. Awaji and Mr. Sato offered JPY30 million in June and July to a former adviser to to give false testimony and deny that his company had bribed Mr. Akimoto.

Sources said that Mr. Awaji told prosecutors they were acting on behalf of the embattled lawmaker.

It also emerged that prosecutors have obtained actual evidence that Mr. Akimoto was involved in the witness tampering process. According to sources, prosecutors have found fingerprints of the lawmaker on bills he allegedly distributed through an accomplice to bribe witnesses in the casino bribery case.

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