Akimoto Sentenced to Four Years in Casino Bribery Case
Tsukasa Akimoto, the Japanese lawmaker, and former casino regulator, has been sentenced to four years in prison and fined following a very public bribery scandal. He was convicted of accepting roughly 7.6 million yen ($69,200) in bribes from 500.com, a Chinese gambling operator that wanted to expand in Japan.
According to prosecutors, Akimoto accepted cash and gifts from 500.com between 2017 and 2018 while he was involved in the process of legalizing casinos in Japan. 500.com had established a subsidiary in Tokyo as part of its efforts to open a casino in the ski-resort village of Rusutsu, Hokkaido.
Akimoto has been ordered to pay the bribery amount as a fine, and the court also found him guilty of charges that he offered to bribe witnesses to falsify their court testimony. However, Akimoto’s attorneys said that they will be appealing the case, and he has maintained his innocence at all times.
At the same time, Akimoto has said that he is planning to run again in the upcoming lower house election. The bribery scandal forced him to resign from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, where he was a senior vice minister in Japan’s cabinet, as part of which he oversaw the legalization process of integrated resorts between 2017 and 2018.
Last year, 500.com advisors Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato admitted to bribing Akimoto in exchange for favorable treatment. A total of four people were found guilty of giving bribes to Akimoto, and a further four were found guilty in the witness tampering case. One of those found guilty in the bribery case was Akihiro Toyoshima, who was an aide to Akimoto, and he was given a suspended sentence.
A law passed in 2018 allows for up to three integrated resort casinos in Japan. However, at present, there are only three cities interested and one globally recognized casino operator in the running. As a result, many believe that Japan’s government may delay issuing the concession.