• Kyodo, JIJI

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An adviser to a Chinese gambling operator that is under investigation for allegedly bribing lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, formerly a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, over a casino resort project, has told investigators that the company also gave cash to another five lawmakers, a source familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Another source said Friday that the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office questioned the five lawmakers on a voluntary basis late last year.

Katsunori Nakazato, the adviser to 500.com Ltd., said he handed ¥1 million each to the five lawmakers around September 2017, when ¥3 million was allegedly given to Akimoto, who as deputy minister was in charge of overseeing government policy on the introduction of casino resorts, the source said.

Some of the five belong to a cross-party group of lawmakers dedicated to promoting international tourism, according to the source.

One of the five lawmakers admitted to meeting with Nakazato, who was a former member of the Urasoe Municipal Assembly in Okinawa, without knowing he was advising the Chinese company.

The lawmaker also denied receiving “even one yen” in cash from the company, adding it did not give donations or buy tickets for political events.

Aside from the alleged gift of ¥3 million, Akimoto is also suspected of being invited by the company for a trip to Hokkaido with his family, with the company shouldering their travel expenses totaling some ¥700,000.

On Friday, the Tokyo District Court approved a request from prosecutors that Akimoto’s detention be extended by 10 days until Jan. 14. The court also decided to prolong the detention of the three people linked to 500.com Ltd. who are suspected of making the bribes. During investigations by the prosecutors, the suspects from the Chinese firm explained in detail how they offered the bribes to Akimoto and said they kept digital records of the bribes.

The company, which set up a subsidiary in Tokyo in July 2017, was keen to use Akimoto’s influence to enable it to participate in a casino resort project promoted by the village of Rusutsu in Hokkaido, according to other sources.

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