Disgraced Japanese lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto will be handed a new arrest warrant this coming week, local news outlets report citing sources familiar with the matter.
Mr. Akimoto was arrested in late December for allegedly taking a bribe from a Chinese gambling company seeking to build a casino resort in Japan.
Earlier this month, the Tokyo District Court extended the lawmaker’s arrest through January 14. According to sources, the special investigation team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office will serve a new warrant to Mr. Akimoto by this coming Tuesday when his detention period expires.
The Japanese lawmaker allegedly received bribes from Chinese online sports lottery company 500.com to back its bid to win a casino license. According to Tokyo prosecutors, Mr. Akimoto took JPY3 million in cash in September 2017 from company advisers. In addition, 500.com allegedly covered the expenses for a trip the legislator and his family took to Hokkaido in February 2018.
The Chinese gambling operator opened an office in Japan in the summer of 2017. The company partnered a local travel agency to jointly explore casino resort development opportunities in Hokkaido. The province announced that it was dropping from Japan’s casino race late last year.
According to investigators, 500.com bribed Mr. Akimoto after it became clear 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 policy that would set out the rules under which Japan’s first casinos would be developed and operated.
Bribery Scandal Brews On
The investigation team tasked with probing the bribery case believes that 500.com asked Mr. Akimoto for favors relating to the company’s casino resort bid. According to the lawmaker’s first arrest warrant, he took JPY3 million in cash in late September and then embarked on a JPY700,000 trip to Hokkaido with his family, the expenses for which were covered by the gambling operator.
Mr. Akimoto has been maintaining his innocence. He also told prosecutors that he himself paid for the trip to Hokkaido. The lawmaker quit Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party shortly after his arrest on December 25.
It emerged earlier this month that five other lawmakers were voluntarily interrogated by Tokyo prosecutors in connection with the bribery scandal. They allegedly took JPY1 million each from 500.com to help the company win the casino race.
One of the five lawmakers, Mikio Shimoji, admitted to taking money from the gambling company. Up until recently, Mr. Shimoji was a member of opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai. However, he was expelled from the party after news about his involvement in the bribery scandal emerged. He was also urged to quit the government’s House of Representatives, where he currently serves.