Former Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya denied over the weekend to have received JPY1 million in cash from a Chinese online sports lottery operator involved in a casino bribery scandal, news about which broke late last year.
Mr. Iwaya, a member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who serves in the Lower House of the country’s legislature, was one of five legislators questioned by Tokyo prosecutors in relation to the bribery case.
The five lawmakers allegedly took JPY1 million each in September 2017 from Chinese gambling operator 500.com, which sought to participate in an integrated resort scheme in Hokkaido. All five lawmakers have denied the allegations and told prosecutors in Tokyo in charge of the case that they had no involvement whatsoever in any bribery scheme.
Mr. Iwaya on Saturday told reports in his constituency in Beppu, Oita Prefecture that he never received money from 500.com.
The former Defense Minister along with his four fellow lawmakers were questioned by Tokyo prosecutors after Katsunori Nakazato, who served as an adviser for 500.com, told Japanese authorities that he handed JPY1 million to each of the five lawmakers in September 2017.
As reported by Casino News Daily, it was around that time when Tsukasa Akimoto, a now former LDP member and former senior vice minister in the Japanese government, allegedly took a JPY3 million bribe from 500.com to spearhead the company’s bid to win a casino license for an integrated resort project in the village of Rusutsu, Hokkaido Province.
LDP Records Show Several Donations Received by Company Linked to the Rusutsu Project
LDP Member Hiroyuki Nakamura was another lawmaker to be questioned in relation to the bribery scandal. Mr. Nakamura admitted that he was questioned by Tokyo prosecutors but denied the allegations leveled against him that he was bribed by 500.com.
Under Japan’s Political Funds Control Law, lawmakers and parties cannot receive donations from foreign nationals or organizations.
According to political funds records, an LDP branch headed by Mr. Nakamura was handed JPY2 million in donations in late September 2017 by a travel agency that had teamed up with 500.com in a bid to obtain a license for the Rusutsu casino resort project.
The branch received another JPY2 million in early October 2017 from a senior official at the travel agency. A branch of Japan’s ruling party headed by Mr. Iwaya received JPY1 million from the JPY4 million donated by the travel firm a few days later.
Mr. Nakamura said that the travel agency did not inform them that the cash contributions actually came from 500.com.
Four of the five lawmakers that were questioned in relation with the casino bribery scandal are members of the LDP, while the other one is a member of opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai.
Mr. Iwaya, Mr. Nakamura, and the Nippon Ishin lawmaker, Mikio Shimoji, were all part of a cross-party group of legislators who pushed for the legalization of casinos as part of larger integrated resorts in Japan.
It emerged on Friday that Mr. Akimoto, who was detained by Tokyo authorities on December 25, will remain under arrest until at least January 14 after the Tokyo District Court extended his detention.
Source: Former defense chief Takeshi Iwaya dismisses claim he was bribed by Chinese casino hopeful, The Japan Times