Japanese Politicians Deny Involvement In Bribery Scandal Over Integrated Resort
A number of senior politicians from Japan have released statements to the media to offer categorical denials regarding their alleged involvement in a bribery scheme carried out by lobbyists for a new integrated casino resort to be built in Okinawa or Hokkaido prefecture.
Both Okinawa and Hokkaido prefecture have shown a strong aversion to hosting a casino resort in their respective areas.
In November 2019, the governor of Hokkaido affirmed that the prefecture will not place a bid to host a casino resort. In September 2019, Okinawa elected a governor who had a strong anti-casino message.
News reports from Japanese media outlets contained the allegations, stemming from anonymous sources, which identified five members of the House of Representatives as having undergone a voluntary questioning by authorities for receiving illicit payments from lobbyists, purportedly in exchange for their support.
Akimoto Investigation Led to Five House Members
The names of five members surfaced when an investigation was launched into Tsukasa Akimoto, another House member, who was arrested in December for suspicions of receiving bribes from lobbyists for the Chinese firm 500.com, related to an integrated resort scheme in Hokkaido.
Two Japanese politicians have issued strong denials of their involvement in the bribery scheme. Hiroyuki Nakamura and Takeshi Iwaya both claimed that they did not receive bribes from a foreign firm. Nakamura, one of the five House members questioned last week, described the funds he received as a lawful political contribution, while Iwaya flatly denied the possibility of having received any funds from any foreign firm.
Prosecutors from Tokyo also arrested the former head of 500.com’s operations as well two former advisors, in relation to the suspected bribery of public officials to gain an edge for their bid to operate one of Japan’s future casino resorts. Akimoto was charged with receiving 3 million yen ($28,000) in cash and an all-expenses-paid family vacation from 500.com’s representatives in Japan in 2017.
Last week, reports from Japan stated that the Tokyo District Court has approved an extension of the maximum detention period for Akimoto and the three other suspects linked to the bribery case. They can now be held until January 14, 2020.
500.com Chairman Steps Down
500.com released a statement offering a strong denial of these claims and has taken measures to investigate the matter internally. The chairman of the firm has also stepped down as a result of the scandal.
Furthermore, 500.com’s director and chief executive have also offered to step down temporarily—until the investigation is concluded in order to assure that the probe will be credible to the board, the stakeholders, and the general public. The board of 500.com has accepted this request. The firm has also directed their advisors at their Japanese branch to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.