THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
February 13, 2020 at 12:54 JST
Tsukasa Akimoto leaves the Tokyo Detention House on Feb. 12 after posting bail. (Kotaro Ebara)
The Tokyo District Court rejected an appeal by prosecutors on Feb. 12 and released on bail a lawmaker charged with receiving bribes from a Chinese company.
Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, who has denied all the allegations against him, left the Tokyo Detention House around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 12. A black van was waiting to take him to the Diet members’ building and other locations.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office had appealed the Feb. 10 decision by a different judge at the district court to release Akimoto after he paid 30 million yen ($273,000) in bail.
Akimoto was arrested on Dec. 25 on suspicion of accepting a total of about 7.6 million yen in cash and travel expenses from 500.com that prosecutors say was intended as a bribe.
The Chinese company has been interested in opening a casino as part of an integrated resort in Japan. At one time, Akimoto served as senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office where he was involved in promoting such integrated resorts.
Akimoto was subsequently indicted on charges of accepting bribes.
His lawyers submitted a request for his release on bail on Feb. 3, the same day that he was indicted on additional charges.
It is rare in Japan for courts to grant releases to defendants who have recently been charged and who have maintained their innocence during questioning.
A Lower House member, Akimoto left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party after his arrest, but he has expressed an interest in attending the current Diet session.
However, one condition of his bail is believed to be a ban on meeting other lawmakers who have been linked to 500.com, sources said. They include Takaki Shirasuka, an LDP Lower House member, and Shigeaki Katsunuma, a former LDP Lower House member.
All three are believed to have visited China on a business trip paid for by 500.com.
In addition, Akimoto will also be prohibited from contacting five other lawmakers named by an executive connected with 500.com as recipients of donations from the Chinese company, the sources said.
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