THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
August 20, 2020 at 18:48 JST
Tokyo public prosecutors on Aug. 20 arrested a lawmaker charged in a bribery scandal on suspicion of bribing witnesses with at least 30 million yen ($283,000) to provide false testimony, investigative sources said.
Tsukasa Akimoto, a member of the Lower House, denies the allegations he planned to exchange cash for favorable testimony.
“I declare with confidence that I have played no role whatsoever in what is alleged,” he said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun earlier in the day.
Akimoto, 48, was indicted earlier this year on suspicions he accepted a total of 7.6 million yen from 500.com, a Chinese company that has been interested in opening a casino as part of an integrated resort in Japan.
Prosecutors suspect Masahiko Konno, a former adviser to 500.com, handed 3 million yen in cash to Akimoto when they met at Akimoto’s office in the building for Diet members on Sept. 28, 2017.
Akimoto, a former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, had served as senior vice minister in charge of promoting integrated resort projects at the Cabinet Office between August 2017 and October 2018. He left the party after his arrest in December.
Akimoto denies the allegation that he accepted the money in the graft scandal.
Those indicted for offering the money to the lawmaker admitted to the allegations, according to the sources.
Akimoto was released in February on bail. His trial has yet to begin.
Investigators with the special squad at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office believe Akimoto plotted to bribe witnesses to testify in his behalf in court, according to the sources.
Akihito Awaji, a company executive in Tokyo, told investigators during questioning that Akimoto instructed him to pay off witnesses to provide false testimony, the sources said.
Awaji and two other company senior officials were arrested on Aug. 4 on suspicion of bribing witnesses to commit perjury.
Akimoto told The Asahi Shimbun that Awaji is a supporter of his and that they became close after an LDP legislator introduced them to each other about five years ago.
Akimoto also said he met with Awaji on multiple occasions between February and July.
But he denied asking him to bribe witnesses. He said he does not know the two other executives.
Awaji and the executives are suspected of meeting with Konno in June and July to pressure him to testify that he had not met Akimoto in the building for Diet members in return for 30 million yen in cash.
According to sources, after his release, Akimoto disclosed his plan to Awaji to plead innocent during the trial by denying that he met with Konno on the day they were believed to have met.
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