National / Crime & Legal

Dubious use of funds suspected at entertainment firm linked to arrested Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto

JIJI

A Tokyo entertainment firm linked to Lower House lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested last month for allegedly taking bribes from a Chinese gambling company, is suspected of dubious use of funds, it was learned Friday.

The entertainment firm, established by a former policy secretary to Akimoto, 48, in July 2011, collected money mainly as corporate consulting fees but might have used part of it to pay the salaries of the secretary, informed sources said. Akimoto, a member of the House of Representatives, used to be an adviser to the firm.

There is a possibility the money might have had to be booked in his political funds report as donations, and a special investigation team from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is working to confirm how it was used, according to the sources.

Akimoto, former Cabinet Office state minister in charge of the government’s project to launch casino resorts, was arrested by the special team on Dec. 25 on suspicion of receiving ¥3.7 million in bribes, including ¥3 million in cash, from Shenzhen-based online sports lottery provider 500.com Ltd. The Chinese firm was hoping to get a piece of the casino pie in Japan, which recently legalized them.

The entertainment firm earned consulting fees and other income under contracts with multiple businesses. Its annual revenue is said to have topped ¥10 million, the sources said.

A pachinko parlor operator in Tokyo that was searched by the special investigative team had been paying a monthly consulting fee of ¥200,000 to the entertainment company for about two years until last autumn.

But its payments weren’t booked in the political funds reports of Akimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party branch in Tokyo or his supporter group, the sources said. Akimoto quit the LDP following his arrest.

The entertainment firm was set up after Akimoto failed to win a seat in the July 2010 Upper House election. He temporarily served as its adviser and received fees from it for the post.

The special team suspects the former policy secretary was treated as an employee and was being paid a salary from the pool of money collected from its client companies, the sources said.

The Tokyo District Court has approved a request to extend the maximum detention period for Akimoto and three people linked to 500.com who were also arrested Dec. 25 for allegedly providing him bribes, until Jan. 14.

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