Photo/IllutrationA report on political funds by a support organization of Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto shows two entries of 1.28 million yen ($11,640) as travel expenses in December 2017. (Wataru Netsu)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto received expensive gifts from a Chinese company during a visit to China in 2017 that eventually led to his arrest on suspicion of receiving bribes, investigative sources said.

The special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office suspects the company, 500.com, covered the expenses for Akimoto’s trip in hopes of receiving favors in its bid to take part in a casino project in Japan.

Prosecutors are now investigating if the gifts, including luxury brand shoes and a bag worth hundreds of thousands of yen, also constitute a bribe, the sources said.

Akimoto served as senior vice minister in charge of integrated resort facilities, including casinos, at the Cabinet Office from August 2017 to October 2018.

At the invitation of 500.com, Akimoto and two other Japanese politicians took a private jet to Shenzhen in the Chinese province of Guangdong in late December 2017.

Akimoto met the CEO of 500.com at its main office in Shenzhen and then toured a casino in neighboring Macau, where he received the gifts, the sources said.

Zheng Xi, a self-proclaimed vice president of 500.com, accompanied the three politicians on the trip.

Akimoto was arrested on Dec. 25 on suspicion of taking bribes about 3.7 million yen ($33,600) from the company side, including expenses for a trip to Hokkaido.

He was rearrested on Jan. 14 over the 3.5 million yen he received from the company for giving a lecture at a 500.com-organized symposium on casino projects in Okinawa Prefecture in 2017 and in the form of the three-day, two-night trip to China.

Akimoto has denied that the company paid for his trip to China.

“I directed my aides to pay the expenses, and my understanding is that they were paid,” the sources quoted Akimoto as saying.

However, the sources said Akimoto’s former policy aide, Akihiro Toyoshima, and Masahiko Konno, an adviser to 500.com, had agreed to produce a fake receipt for the travel expenses.

A political fund report submitted by Akimoto’s support group showed two entries totaling 2.56 million yen as his travel expenses to China.

But no payment was actually made by the Akimoto side for the travel cost, the sources said, meaning that the Chinese company likely picked up the tab.

Toyoshima was indicted without arrest on charges of taking bribes. Konno has also been arrested in the case.

The two politicians who joined Akimoto on the trip to China are Takaki Shirasuka, 44, a Lower House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Shigeaki Katsunuma, 45, a former Lower House member of the LDP. Investigators are questioning them over who paid for their travel expenses.

The Tokyo District Court on Jan. 15 granted prosecutors’ request to extend Akimoto’s detention period by 10 days through Jan. 24.

Akimoto left the LDP immediately after his arrest in December.