The Chinese boss of 500.com, Pan Zhengming, has requested from the company’s board of directors to be temporarily suspended while an investigation determining the alleged involvement of 500.com in Japan’s integrated resorts bribery scandal is concluded.
500.com CEO to Vacate Post While Investigation Continues
The chief executive of 500.com Pan Zhengming has stepped down from his post amid a scandal that has sent ripples across Japan. Mr. Pan’s company has allegedly offered bribes to several Japanese lawmakers to lobby for an integrated resort (IR) project in Hokkaido, Japan through employees in the country.
Most of the people involved remain anonymous with a single public arrest made so far. Diet member, Mikio Shimoji, was also among the individuals named for taking a bribe, but he has not yet said whether he would consider stepping down from his public post.
Meanwhile, Mr’s Pan’s step-down is a temporary measure until an investigation probes into whether 500.com and Mr. Pan has had any specific involvement in the alleged lobbying reported by Japanese media outlets, and if so – to what extent.
The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voted in favor of legalizing gambling in the country in 2016. Since that time, international companies have been trying to secure a spot in the country and build the first integrated resort due to arrive in 2025.
However, this timeline is now under question, as the “alleged money transfers and the role played by consultants” continues to be the object of Japanese investigators. Mr. Pan has stepped down out of his own free will, asking from the board of directors to accept the temporary solution. The decision came into effect on December 30.
Akimoto’s Arrest and the Accusations Against Him
Recently, Japanese authorities apprehended Tsukasa Akimoto, a former lawmaker and member of the Diet from Mr. Abe’s, along with several employees of 500.com. Since his arrest, Mr. Akimoto has stepped down.
Based on media reports and official statements, Mr. Akimoto has received kickbacks to facilitate 500.com’s bid in Hokkaido. Japanese sources have been bringing up information about other officials arrested in Japan connected to the case.
Based on the available information, Mr. Akimoto had received $28,000 in cash as well as travel tickets to Macau, China and Hokkaido. As per the account of 500.com employees apprehended by Japanese authorities, Mr. Akimoto is just one of five suspects to have benefited from similar payments.
Reportedly, Mr. Akimoto took his family on the trip to Hokkaido, using money from 500.com, as part of the Chinese gaming giant’s lobbying efforts. In 2019, though, Hokkaido dropped out of the race, citing concerns about the environment as well as undefined economic benefits for the prefecture.
Mr. Akimoto was originally detained on December 25 and later, the Tokyo District Court extended his apprehension. Investigations are ongoing and the story is still developing.
Last updated: January 7, 2020 08:27 PM GMT.