Japanese newswire service Jiji Press reported that on Monday the Tokyo District Court approved the bail release of Japanese politician Tsukasa Akimoto, a supporter of legalising casino resorts in that nation. Mr Akimoto was indicted on charges of bribe-taking for allegedly receiving money from a Chinese company looking to invest in Japan’s emerging casino industry.
Mr Akimoto’s bail has been set at JPY30 million (US$ 273,236) which he paid the same day, according to Jiji Press. Public prosecutors lodged an appeal against the court decision, and the lower house lawmaker–who after his initial arrest on Christmas Day resigned from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) –will not be charged until the appeal is continued, Jiji Press added.
Last week Mr Akimoto was charged–in a second and supplementary indictment–with allegedly collecting JPY2 million from China-based gaming company 500.com Ltd, a sum transferred to a bank account connected to the Japanese lawmaker in September 2017 as “speaking fees”
The 48-year-old lawmaker was also suspected of having an amount of JPY1.85 million paid by the Chinese company as travel expenses related to a trip to China in 2017 including a visit to some of the Macau casinos in December of the same year, Japanese media reported citing the indictment last week.
Mr Akimoto was first arrested in September 2017 for allegedly collecting JPY3 million in cash from 500.com and was accused of receiving nearly JPY760,000 in expenses for a family trip to Hokkaido in February 2018.
Mr Akimoto’s denied any wrongdoing since his arrest in December.
The lawmaker was responsible for overseeing Japan’s drive to host integrated resorts (IR( as large-scale casino complexes are called in Japan–when he worked at the Cabinet Office for about a year through October 2018 as a senior vice-minister.
On Monday, Jiji Press reported that Mr Akimoto is barred from contacting Takaki Shirasuka, a ruling LDP lawmaker and former lawmaker Shigeaki Katsunuma under his bail conditions. The two are said to have accompanied Mr Akimoto on a Macau casino inspection tour, organised by 500.com in 2017.
Mr Akimoto is also prevented from contacting five other Japanese politicians, to whom the former 500.com members claim to have given cash worth JPY1 million each.Japanese authorities have questioned the five representatives of Japan’s House of Representatives, on a voluntary basis for their suspected reception of cash from people linked to the Chinese company.
The suspected bribery case involving Mr Akimoto has raised concerns in Japan, with opposition lawmakers in the country raising questions about how suitors for casino licences in Japan might have tried to influence key public officials. But last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the parliament that his administration would still pursue IR schemes as an economic stimulus to improve the tourism business in the country.