Earlier today, two ex-advisers to a China-based gambling company aimed at entering the recently liberalized Japanese casino market were found guilty of bribing a local lawmaker.
On October 12th, the Tokyo District Court announced a ruling under which the 49-year-old Masahiko Konno received a 2-year imprisonment sentence, suspended for three years, and the 48-year-old Katsunori Nakazato received a year and ten months in prison, also suspended for three years. The two men were associated with the Chinese company 500.com Ltd, which was interested in acquiring a casino operating license under the newly-opened gambling sector in Japan.
Mr. Nakazato and Mr. Konno were found guilty of giving the former member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Tsukasa Akimoto, bribes amounting to ¥7.6 million in the period from 2017 to 2018. The bribes also included them covering the travel expenses to Hokkaido and China of ex-lawmaker, who was responsible for overseeing the casino legalization process in the country.
At the time he announced the court’s ruling, Presiding Judge Toshihiko Niwa said that the two men associated with 500.com Ltd received information on the gambling legislation in return to what he described as “extravagant wining and dining” of Mr. Akimoto. Judge Niwa also said that the two defendants’ actions greatly undermined the principle of impartiality of duties and affected the public trust in the integrated casino resorts, which have been among the largest-scale projects recently announced by the Japanese Government.
Former Japanese Lawmaker Overseeing Casino Market’s Legalization Received Bribes between 2017 and 2018
The legal representatives of the two defendants had asked the court to show some leniency, as the China-based operator withdrew its bid to enter the newly-liberalized casino sector in Japan and the bribes given to Mr. Akimoto had not affected the application process in any way.
As CasinoGamesPro previously revealed, at the time he occupied the position of Senior Vice Minister in the Cabinet Office for about a year as of September 2017, Mr. Akimoto was entitled to oversee the Central Government’s initiative to make casino gambling legal as part of so-called integrated casino resorts – large hospitality and entertainment complexes that include hotels, gambling establishments, conference facilities, dining and entertainment services. He stepped down from his position in the Liberal Democratic Party before his initial arrest under the allegations of bribery associated with the integrated casino resorts’ application process took place in December 2019.
Mr. Akimoto resumed his political activities after he was released on bail in February 2020. In September, he faced another charge related to the bribery scandal. At the time, CasinoGamesPro reported that the House of Representatives member faced a charge of offering money to Mr. Nakazato and Mr. Konno in order to guarantee they would give false testimony in court to favor him.
For the time being, the integrated casino resorts project that has been backed by the new Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, remains at a standstill because of the negative impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on the country. The Central Government recently revealed that it would delay the process of accepting bids from Japan’s local governments willing to become home to the newly-legalized integrated resorts.