China’s 500.com, a company interested in Japan’s integrated resort industry, has been accused of handing over JPY 3 million to Tsukasa Akimoto, the House of Representatives Member and Deputy Minister for IR in the cabinet recently arrested on bribery charges.
According to a new report by the Yomiuri Shimbun, an internal 500.com company memo obtained by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office reveals that another JPY 1 million was supplied to each of five other members of the lower house, with multiple Diet members accused of having approved the receipt of funds.
The five members in question are Hiroyuki Nakamura (58, Liberal Democrat Party, Hokkaido), Takeshi Iwaya (62, Liberal Democrat Party, Oita), Toshimitsu Funahashi (59, Liberal Democrat Party, Hokkaido), Mikio Shimoji (58, Ishin, Kyushu) and Masahisa Miyazaki (54, Liberal Democrat Party, Kyushu).
The series of funds is said to have been provided to the representatives by former 500.com advisors Masahiko Konno and Katsunori Nakazato between September and October 2017.
It is believed that 500.com was angling to be involved in the development of an IR in either Hokkaido or Okinawa. Ironically, both locations have since withdrawn from Japan’s IR race.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, Defense Minister Iwaya, said, “Nothing was requested for [in exchange for the funds]. There were no benefits awarded. I swear by all that is sacred that I have not been involved in any wrongdoing.”
Funahashi also defended himself against the allegations, stating, “I have not received any funds, and I have not provided any benefits.”
Nakamura admitted that he received a donation of JPY 2 million from a representative of a tourism company, whose home has now been searched in the investigation, but denies receiving funds from a Chinese company.
The Political Funds Control Law prohibits foreign companies from making donations to political organizations, and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Special Investigation Division is carefully examining whether the law has been broken.
500.com is an online sports betting company based in Shenzhen. On 31 December, the company set up a special investigative committee to investigate its former director and three former advisors of its subsidiary, 500.com Japan.
Chairman Xudong Chen announced his resignation on 30 December, while CEO Zhengming Pan will temporarily step down from his duties during the investigation. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, 500.com may be punished under the US Federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) depending on the outcome of this investigation. The company’s stocks last week plunged by nearly 11%.