A Japanese politician has been arrested on charges of bribery and corruption in relation to casino licenses. Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, was hauled in for questioning on Christmas Day 2019 accused of accepting cash and other perks from a Chinese casino operator.
Tsukasa Akimoto was a member of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. He held the position of Vice Minister of Tourism and categorically denies all of the charges.
Law enforcement officials allege that Akimoto received ¥3.7 million ($33,675) worth of bribes from Chinese gaming firm 500.com. This came in the form of cash, rooms in luxury hotels, and airline tickets.
Akimoto responded to the charges by claiming that everything he received from the Chinese company was related to his travel costs and handled by his secretary.
The authorities have held Akimoto in custody since his arrest but were planning to release him on Tuesday 13 January. They are now insisting that he stays behind bars while they deal with fresh evidence of even more bribery.
All About the Licenses
The key to all of the charges relates to 500.com’s application for a casino resort license in Hokkaido. Akimoto was paid by 500.com to make speeches as well as for a visit to the company’s Shenzhen headquarters in 2017.
Due to the extreme embarrassment corruption causes in Japan, a new Casino Regulatory Commission was set up earlier this week to oversee developments in the casino licensing process. Discussions about rules and regulations have already taken place.
Michio Kitamura, a former chief of the Fukuoka High Public Prosecutor’s Office, will lead the new body tasked with restoring the public’s trust in the country’s fledgling casino industry.
While outsiders might view this scandal as something minor, in Japanese culture this kind of corruption is taken most seriously, to the point where it can bring down the government.
The media are already speculating whether or not prime minister Shinzō Abe will call a snap election or wait until the country has hosted the Olympics and Paralympics later this year.
Tsukasa Akimoto might be the name in the headlights right now, but he is far from the only one facing similar allegations.
Mikio Shimoji was the first to publicly admit that he received financial benefits from 500.com. He was a member of the opposition party, Nippon Ishin, who immediately booted him out.
Other members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Takeshi Iwaya,Toshimitsu Funahashi, Masahisa Miyazaki, and Hiroyuki Nakamura are all accused of similar offenses.
The country might now be looking to back out of the integrated resorts promotion law that was first passed in 2016.
The intention was to make a smart backup plan to counteract the usual economic turnaround countries usually experience after hosting a major international sporting event such as the Olympics or the football World Cup.
The public reaction to this bill was anything but positive. Concerns over gambling addiction leading to crime and the involvement of major organised crime syndicates caused an outcry. As usual, though, when governments see an opportunity to increase economic output they will side with that over social concerns.
Opposition parties are now putting their heads together over the possibility of passing a new bill. They hope it will revoke the integrated resorts promotion law.
500.com now look sure to be disappointed over any outcome related to their holding one of the new licenses. They had been exerting pressure for an increase to five licenses up from three.
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