Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya Denies Cash Bribary

This weekend, the former Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya denied that a Chinese online sports lottery operator implicated in a casino bribery scandal had given him JPY1 million in cash, news about which broke out late last year.

Mr. Iwaya, a member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) serving in the country’s legislature’s lower house, was one of five lawmakers interviewed by Tokyo prosecutors on the bribery case.

Chinese gambling operator 500.com, which sought to participate in an integrated resort scheme in Hokkaido, allegedly took JPY1 million each from the five lawmakers in September 2017. All five representatives denied the allegations and told Tokyo investigators that they had no role in any bribery scheme whatsoever.

Mr. Iwaya said on Saturday that he never received money from 500.com in his constituency in Beppu, Oita Prefecture.

The former Defense Minister and his four fellow lawmakers were questioned by Tokyo prosecutors after Katsunori Nakazato, who worked as a 500.com adviser, told Japanese authorities in September 2017 that he handed over JPY1 million to each of the five legislators.

As reported by Casino News Daily, it was around that time that Tsukasa Akimoto, a former LDP leader and former Japanese government senior vice minister, allegedly took a 500.com JPY3 million bribe to spearhead the company’s bid to win a casino licence for an integrated resort project in Rusutsu village, Hokkaido Province.

Another representative to be interviewed in relation to the bribery scandal was LDP Leader Hiroyuki Nakamura. Mr. Nakamura admitted being interviewed by Tokyo prosecutors but denied that he was bribed by 500.com on the charges levied against him.

Lawmakers and groups are unable to accept donations from foreign citizens or organisations under Japan’s Political Funds Control Law.

In late September 2017, a travel agency that had teamed up with 500.com in a bid to obtain a licence for the Rusutsu casino resort project, handed over JPY2 million in donations to an LDP branch led by Mr. Nakamura.

The division received an additional JPY2 million from a senior official at the travel agency in early October 2017. A branch of Mr. Iwaya’s ruling party in Japan received JPY1 million from the JPY4 million donated a few days later by the travel company.

Mr. Nakamura said they were not told by the travel agency that the actual cash donations came from 500.com.

Four of the five lawmakers questioned in connexion with the casino bribery scandal are LDP members, while the other is Nippon Ishin no Kai, an opposition party leader.

Mr. Iwaya, Mr. Nakamura, and Mikio Shimoji, the Nippon Ishin legislator, were all part of a cross-party group of lawmakers calling for casino legalisation as part of larger integrated resorts in Japan.

It emerged on Friday that Mr Akimoto, who was arrested on December 25 by the Tokyo police, would remain under arrest until at least January 14 following the extension of his detention by the Tokyo District Court.