Akihito Awaji, an executive of Chinese gaming firm 500.com who was arrested for allegedly asking a defendant to provide false testimony in a corruption case involving Tsukasa Akimoto, has been found to have regularly met with Akimoto since he was released on bail.
The 54-year-old Awaji is one of three company executives, alongside Fumihiko Sato and Kazuhiro Miyatake, arrested by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on suspicion of paying off witnesses in the ongoing IR corruption case. It is alleged that Awaji instructed Sato to ask Akihiko Konno – a former advisor to 500.com who has also been arrested for allegedly bribing Akimoto – to say he had not met Akimoto on the day it is stated that money was handed over to pay off witnesses.
Awaji and Sato are accused of offering cash to Konno in June and July while Miyatake is accused of the same to another former adviser Katsunori Nakazato. These offerings were to be in exchange for stating on record they had not met with Akimoto at the House of Representatives in September 2017 when a JPY3 million bribe payment to Akimoto is alleged to have taken place. Such false testimony would support Akimoto’s denial of the allegations.
The major focus remains Akimoto’s involvement in their actions.
The three suspects have been arrested for violating organized crime laws (bribing a witness) and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is continuing with its investigation.
The penalty for inciting a witness to perjure themselves is imprisonment for not more than two years, while for organized crimes it is imprisonment for not more than five years.
The scandal first emerged late last year when 500.com, a company previously interested in Japan’s integrated resort industry, was accused of handing over JPY3 million to Akimoto and another JPY1 million to each of five other members of the lower house, with multiple Diet members accused of having approved the receipt of funds.
It is believed that 500.com was angling to be involved in the development of an IR in either Hokkaido or Okinawa. Both locations have since withdrawn from Japan’s IR race.
Akimoto has denied all charges brought against him.