Japanese lawmaker indicted on fresh charges

by William Brown Last Updated
Japanese lawmaker indicted on fresh charges

A Japanese lawmaker who played an instrumental role in the legalisation and promotion of casino gambling has been indicted on bribery charges.

Casino News Daily reports that Tsukasa Akimoto, a former member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party was served with a fresh arrest warrant on Tuesday for allegedly receiving millions of yen from a Chinese gambling company to spearhead its bid to build a casino in Japan.

Akimoto was arrested on December 25 over allegations he had received cash from Chinese online sports lottery company 500.com to help it win a licence for an integrated resort with a dedicated casino floor in Hokkaido.

The lawmaker served as a senior vice minister at the Cabinet Office for about a year and was tasked with overseeing the drafting of a policy allowing for the development of up to three casino resorts in Japan.

Akimoto was indicted on changes of taking a 3 million Japanese yen bribe from 500.com advisers in his office in Tokyo in late September, 2017, when the House of Representatives he was a member of was dissolved for a snap election by Prime Minister Abe.

Along with his indictment, the disgraced lawmaker was also served with a new arrest warrant for allegedly taking more money than what the initial evidence showed.

Tokyo prosecutors served Akimoto with a fresh arrest warrant for allegedly taking an addition 2 million Japanese yen from 500.com and for admitting that the expenses for a trip worth 1.5 million Japanese yen to the gambling operator’s corporate headquarters in Shenzhen, China were, too, covered by 500.com.

According to prosecutors, the lawmaker accepted more than 7 million Japanese yen in bribes in cahs and the form of trip expenses altogether.

Aside from his visit to 500.com’s headquarters, the company also allegedly treated Akimoto to a family trip to Hokkaido in February 2018.

The lawmaker has denied any wrongdoing and has told investigators that he did not remember taking cash from 500.com and that his secretary was the person who dealt with all payments for his trips.

Akimoto’s former secretary, Akihiro Toyoshima was also indicted in connection with the bribery case.

According to the latest reports from local media, 500.com asked Akimoto to lobby for an increase in the number of casino licences up for grabs from three to five.

The Chinse company established an office in Japan in the summer of 2017.

Six months later, it revealed plans to pursue development opportunities in Hokkaido.

The former executive of 500.com’s Japanese arm, Zheng Xi, as well as former company advisers Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato were, too, served with fresh arrest warrants.

All three were arrested late last year for their alleged involvement in the bribery scandal.

Twin River vice president charged with bribery

Casino operator Twin River Worldwide Holdings is dealing with fresh controversy after one of its senior executives was charged with bribery.

Calvin Ayre reported in December that the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office announced it had filed multiple charges of accepting bribes and ‘casino gaming bribes’ against Michael Barlow.

Barlow is the senior vice president of operations at Twin River, which operates Rhode Island’s two casinos on behalf of the state government.

Attorney General Peter Neronha said a grand jury had returned an indictment on December 12, that included 30 felony counts against Barlow and two other individuals – casino vendor Yehuda Amar and Amar’s business associate Jill Feldman.

Amar is accused of making payments to Barlow – who began his tenure with Twin Rivers in 2006 – to secure subleases with multiple food court vendors at Twin River casino properties, as well as securing multiple business contracts.

Barlow and Amar were partners in several residential and commercial properties in Connecticut, which resulted in Barlow incurring $340,000 in debt to Amar.

To service these debts, Barlow allegedly steered vendors and contracts to Amar, who “significantly” profited from these transactions.

Amar and Feldman allegedly failed to file corporate tax returns in the state from 2016-18, while also failing to report business income and filing fraudulent personal income tax returns.

Barlow, whose home was searched by police in June, is facing four counts of accepting a bribe, three counts of obtaining property under false pretences, three counts of conspiracy to obtain property under false pretences, and two counts of casino gaming crimes/providing false information.

Barlow was arraigned on Tuesday, before being released on $20,000 bail.

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