National / Crime & Legal

Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, indicted for casino bribery, released on bail

Kyodo

Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was indicted on charges of taking bribes from a Chinese company interested in entering Japan’s nascent casino market, was released Wednesday after paying ¥30 million in bail.

Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, has been indicted for allegedly receiving a total of ¥7.6 million from the Chinese firm, 500.com, in 2017 and 2018. The House of Representatives member, who has spearheaded Japan’s move to legalize casino resorts, has denied the allegations.

His release followed the Tokyo District Court’s denial of an appeal made by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office against the court’s decision to grant him bail. The defense team for Akimoto, who was arrested on Dec. 25, had requested bail on Feb. 3.

Japan recently legalized casinos, which will be operated at so-called integrated resorts with hotels and conference facilities, in the hope of attracting more foreign tourists.

The former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party oversaw the initiative as senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office for about a year through October 2018.

Three others — Zheng Xi, 37, a former executive of the Chinese firm’s Japanese unit, and Masahiko Konno, 48, and Katsunori Nakazato, 47, who both served as advisers to the gambling operator — have been charged with bribery.

The Tokyo court also granted bail Monday to Nakazato, set at ¥6 million. Zheng and Konno had already been released on bail.