Public prosecutors have decided not to indict former top Tokyo prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa, who has been accused of playing mahjong for money, including when Japan was under a novel coronavirus state of emergency earlier this year.

In questioning by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Kurokawa, the 63-year-old former top prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, has admitted gambling on mahjong with three employees of the Asahi Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun, both major Japanese dailies.

Kurokawa’s close relationship with the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had also come under scrutiny amid the scandal, contributing to the Abe Cabinet’s sagging approval rating.

The district public prosecutors office on Friday dismissed the habitual gambling and bribe-taking suspicions against Kurokawa. He was alleged to have accepted bribes by using luxury taxis hired by the Sankei side, which paid the costs, when returning home after playing mahjong.

All of the three Asahi and Sankei employees also escaped indictment.

As reasons for not indicting Kurokawa, the office said that mahjong is a form of entertainment permitted under the law regulating adult entertainment. Kurokawa did not make large bets on mahjong games and has already been socially punished, the office added.

A civic group filed a criminal complaint with the district public prosecutors office against Kurokawa and the newspaper employees in late May.

According to investigations by the office and the publishers of the newspapers, Kurokawa and the newspaper employees started about three years ago to play mahjong together two to three times a month at a variety of places, including the house of a Sankei employee.

They played mahjong seven times when the Japanese government’s state of emergency over the novel coronavirus epidemic was in place earlier this year, and bet money in at least four of the seven occasions.

Winners earned up to about ¥20,000 a day, according to the investigations.

On May 21, soon after the gambling scandal came to light, Kurokawa offered to resign from the top post of the high public prosecutors office. The resignation was accepted after he was reprimanded.

The two Sankei employees and the Asahi employee were suspended from work for four weeks and one month, respectively.

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