• Kyodo


A lawmaker charged with bribery has denied allegations that he offered witnesses money to falsely testify in court in connection with a casino graft scandal, his lawyer said Monday.

“I did not ask (anyone to falsely testify), nor am I involved in anything,” Tsukasa Akimoto, a 48-year-old House of Representatives member, reportedly told investigators.

Also Monday, Akimoto supporter Akihito Awaji, 54, and two other men — Fumihiko Sato, 50, and Kazuhiro Miyatake, 49 — were indicted over alleged witness tampering in connection with the scandal.

Akimoto was rearrested on Thursday for alleged witness tampering while out on bail, after being indicted for receiving ¥7.6 million ($72,000) worth of bribes from a Chinese gambling operator in 2017 and 2018 while in charge of Japan’s move to legalize casino resorts.

Investigators believe the lawmaker was heavily involved in the witness tampering case and have also obtained an arrest warrant for an acquaintance who is the head of a consulting company.

According to the indictment, Awaji and Sato are suspected of offering ¥30 million in June and July to Masahiko Konno, 48, a former adviser to the Chinese company 500.com Ltd., to give false testimony in court favoring Akimoto.

Miyatake and the consultant in question allegedly made a similar offer to Katsunori Nakazato, 48, also a former adviser to the gambling firm.

Awaji, a company executive who lives in Tokyo, has told prosecutors they were acting on behalf of the lawmaker, a person familiar with the matter said.

Awaji and Miyatake have also requested bail through their lawyers to the Tokyo District Court.

Akimoto left Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party before his initial arrest in December but resumed working as a lawmaker from February after being released on bail.

He oversaw an initiative that legalized casinos to be operated in Japan at so-called integrated resorts with hotels and conference facilities as a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office for about a year from September 2017.

The Tokyo native became a member of the House of Councillors, or the upper chamber, in 2004 and then a member of the more powerful lower house in 2012.

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