Japanese Politician To be Handed New Arrest Warrant

A new arrest warrant will be released this coming week to disgraced Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto, local news media citing sources familiar with the matter.

Mr Akimoto was arrested late December on charges of allegedly taking a bribe from a Chinese gambling company seeking to build a Japanese casino resort.

The Tokyo District Court extended detention of the lawmaker until January 14 earlier this month. According to reports, the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Prosecutor’s special investigation unit will issue Mr. Akimoto a new warrant by this coming Tuesday when his detention period expires.

The Japanese politician reportedly accepted money from the Chinese online sports betting company 500.com to back up their bid to win a casino licence. Mr Akimoto took JPY3 million in cash from client advisors in September 2017, according to prosecutors in Tokyo. Furthermore, in February 2018 500.com reportedly covered the costs for a trip that the congressman and his family took to Hokkaido.

In summer 2017 the Chinese gambling operator opened a Japan office. The company has partnered with a local travel agency to jointly explore opportunities to develop casino resorts in Hokkaido. The province declared it’s dropping out of the casino race in Japan late last year.

According to prosecutors, 500.com bribed Mr. Akimoto after it became apparent that the lawmaker would step in as a senior vice minister in the Cabinet office and would be tasked with overseeing the drafting of a bill setting out the guidelines under which the first casinos would be built and run in Japan.

The investigation team charged with investigating the bribery case claims that 500.com has asked Mr. Akimoto for favours related to the casino resort offer on the venture. He took JPY3 million in cash late September and then embarked on a JPY700,000 trip to Hokkaido with his relatives, the costs for which were covered by the gambling company, according to the first arrest warrant released by the lawmaker.

Mr. Akimoto maintained his innocence. He also told prosecutors he was paying for the Hokkaido trip himself. The senator is leaving the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan shortly after his arrest on December 25.

It reported earlier this month that five other lawmakers in connexion with the bribery scandal were voluntarily interviewed by prosecutors in Tokyo. They were reportedly taking JPY1 million from 500.com each to help the company win the casino race.

One of the five lawmakers admitted taking money from the gambling company, Mikio Shimoji. Mr Shimoji had been a leader of opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai until recently. But, after reports of his involvement in the bribery scandal emerged, he was expelled from the party. He was also urged to quit the House of Representatives of the government, where he currently serves.