Photo/Illutration Tsukasa Akimoto speaks during a news conference in February after he was released on bail. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Tokyo District Court on Oct. 12 found two former advisers to a Chinese gaming company guilty of bribing a lawmaker in connection with seeking to operate a casino in Japan. 

Masahiko Konno, 49, was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, while Katsunori Nakazato, 48, received a sentence of a year and 10 months, suspended for three years. They both admitted to the charges in court. 

Prosecutors had sought sentences of two years in prison for Konno and a year and 10 months for Nakazato.

Konno and Nakazato formerly worked as advisers to, a company that had expressed interest in opening a casino in Japan.

The two were charged with providing a total of about 7.6 million yen ($72,100) to Tsukasa Akimoto, 48, a Lower House member who previously served as a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office, where he oversaw the government’s plan to open integrated resorts, which included casinos.

The ruling concluded the two attempted to woo Akimoto with an “extravagant and blatant wining-and-dining trip.” They treated Akimoto like a prince and offered him special treatment, the court said.

According to the ruling, they handed a large amount of money to Akimoto to make a strong impression on the lawmaker.

Bribing Akimoto deepened their relationship with him and allowed them access to insider information about the central government’s new law related to integrated resorts, the court said.

The court concluded that the actions of the two was ultimately approved by the CEO of the company.

Still, the duo played an “essential role” in the crime by proposing to provide money to Akimoto among other acts, undermining the equity of the job and the trust of the society,” thus they “deserved strong censure,” the ruling said.

The court acknowledged that the two refused to give false testimony in court after Akimoto allegedly approached them to do so. The presiding judge took it as a sign of their repentance and suspended the prison terms.

According to the ruling, the two conspired to woo Akimoto and help the Chinese gaming company have an inside track to winning the rights to integrated resort projects in Okinawa and Hokkaido prefectures.

In September 2017, they wired 2 million yen to a bank account managed by Akimoto.

On a day in the same month when the Lower House was dissolved, the two handed 3 million yen in cash to Akimoto at his office.

In December the same year, they took Akimoto on a trip to Guangdong province in China and Macao. They paid for his travel and entertainment expenses at casinos among other costs, a sum totaling about 1.82 million yen.

In February 2019, they paid approximately 760,000 yen for Akimoto’s trip to Rusutsu in Hokkaido along with his family. 

Akimoto was first arrested in December 2019 on suspicion of accepting the bribes.

Akimoto was released on bail after his indictment. On Aug. 20, he was arrested again on a separate charge of being a co-conspirator in bribing witnesses to provide false testimony on his behalf.

Akimoto has consistently denied all involvement in accepting bribes and bribing witnesses.

He is expected to enter a not guilty plea.

Because of the second arrest, no date has been set for Akimoto’s first court appearance on the charge of accepting bribes.