Five New Lawmakers Named in IR Corruption Scandal in Japan

New information cited by Japanese media outlets has led investigators to suspect five Japanese lawmakers for allegedly accepting bribes from Chinese gaming giant 500.com in order to push the company’s bid for an integrated resort in Hokkaido.

Japan’s Future Integrated Resorts Marred in Corruption Scandal

The plot thickens in Japan as five new lawmakers have been named in a corruption scandal casting a shadow over the prospects of integrated resorts (IR) projects in the country, which are expected to host international casino brands and put Japan on the map as one of the main gaming hubs in Asia.

At the end of 2019, information transpired that lawmakers and government officials have been receiving payments from a Chinese company, 500.com, to push for an IR bid in Hokkaido.

Tsukasa Akimoto, a now former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has been the first high-profile official to be allegedly named by 500.com employees arrested in connection with the bribery scandal. Mr. Akimoto resigned from his post on December 25, 2019 and denied all wrongdoing. Media quickly picked up the news and fleshed out details about the arrest.

According to the arrested individuals, Mr. Akimoto had received payment from 500.com to travel to China, Hokkaido and Macau along with other favors.

The Plot Thickens as Five New Individuals Named in Japanese IR Scandal

The new information has surfaced amid 500.com advisor, Katsunori Nakazado, confession that he had handed JPY1 million ($9,214.640) to each of the suspected lawmakers back in 2017.  This is a smaller amount than the amount paid to Mr. Akimoto who individually received JPY3.7 million at the time, according to official sources.

Apart from cash payments, the company also invited Mr. Akimoto and his family to a trip to Hokkaido back in February, 2018. He was among the lawmakers who had to create the government framework that would be announced in 2021 and govern the rules for establishment of integrated resorts.

According to newly-released information cited in several Japanese media outlets, the five lawmakers who had allegedly received payments were all part of a group designed to boost international tourism in Japan.

The latest news might yet throw a spanner in the works and slow the expected arrival of an integrated resort on time for the World Expo in 2025. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government passed the Integrated Resort Promotion Bill in 2016 giving green light to casino projects in the country.

In 2018, the government approved the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill designed to guide lawmakers in laying down the legal groundwork for welcoming the future mega projects that, besides casino, would host a number of business and hospitality facilities.

All of the scheming might have been for naught as Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki said in 2019 that the province was pulling out of the race due to environmental concerns.

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