National / Crime & Legal

Arrested lawmaker Akimoto's 2018 Hokkaido trip linked to Sapporo firm planning casino resort

JIJI

A family trip to Hokkaido made in 2018 by ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested Wednesday over bribery allegations, was apparently prompted by a request from a Sapporo tourism company that planned to launch a project to build a casino resort there, it was learned Friday.

The charges against Akimoto, 48, a member of the House of Representatives who was formerly the state minister responsible for so-called integrated resorts at the Cabinet Office, include allegations he received about ¥700,000 in bribes from Chinese company 500.com in the form of travel expenses.

Sources said a senior official of the Sapporo-based tourism company asked Akimoto to travel to the Hokkaido village of Rusutsu, where it was planning to open the resort.

The special investigation team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office suspects that 500.com, which is believed to have been keen to participate in the Sapporo firm’s casino resort project, used the tourism company to set up the bribery scheme.

During Akimoto’s family trip to Rusutsu in February 2018, the lawmaker met with 500.com’s chief executive officer, the Rusutsu village mayor and senior officials of the Hokkaido government at an existing Rusutsu resort facility operated by the Sapporo company, according to the sources. A senior official of the Sapporo firm is also understood to have participated in the meeting.

In January the same year, a meeting was held at the same Rusutsu facility, attended by the CEO of the Chinese firm, two 500.com advisers who were arrested Wednesday for allegedly bribing Akimoto, the Rusutsu mayor and the head of the Rusutsu village assembly. The two arrested advisers are Masahiko Konno, 48, and Katsunori Nakazato, 47.

Believing that others were also involved in assisting the Chinese firm’s alleged bribery linked to Akimoto’s family trip, the investigation team is questioning attendees of the meetings in Rusutsu.

Akimoto, who resigned from the Liberal Democratic Party following his arrest, is also suspected of receiving ¥3 million in bribes from the Chinese company in September 2017. He has denied all charges against him.

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