• Jiji


Lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested for alleged witness tampering over a bribery scandal linked to a casino resort, is suspected of having given related instructions to one of his alleged conspirators via email, it was learned Friday.

An analysis of a mobile phone seized from the suspected conspirator, 54-year-old corporate executive Akihito Awaji, has found traces that he and Akimoto, 48, had corresponded with each other, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The sources also said that Awaji, who has also been arrested for suspected witness tampering, has admitted in questioning by prosecutors that he got instructions from Akimoto over the alleged misconduct.

The special investigation team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is looking into details of their email messages.

On Thursday, the investigation team arrested Akimoto, a member of the House of Representatives, on suspicion of violating the law against organized crimes.

Prosecutors suspect that Akimoto, in conspiracy with Awaji and another corporate executive, Fumihiko Sato, 50, tried in June to persuade Masahiko Konno, 48, a suspected briber in the high-profile bribery case, to make false statements in favor of Akimoto in the lawmaker’s trial in exchange for ¥10 million.

The lawmaker is also suspected of attempting to offer ¥20 million in return for perjury in July.

Akimoto, former state minister in charge of casino-featuring integrated resorts at the Cabinet Office, has been indicted on suspicion of taking bribes related to a casino project. After being released on bail in February, he is believed to have met with Awaji and talked about the witness tampering, the sources said.

Konno and Katsunori Nakazato, 48, both former advisers to Chinese company 500.com Ltd., have been indicted for allegedly giving cash to Akimoto to help the Chinese firm’s bid to run a casino resort in Japan.

Corporate executive Kazuhiro Miyatake, 49, is suspected of asking Nakazato to commit perjury for money.

According to the sources, another man who heads a consulting firm in Tokyo was with Miyatake in the meeting with Nakazato. Akimoto has had friendly relations with this consulting firm head, and the special investigation team suspects that the lawmaker was also involved in the alleged witness tampering case involving Nakazato, sources said.

Sato and Miyatake were arrested on suspicion of witness tampering earlier this month, together with Awaji.

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