Akimoto Flew In Private Jet Prepared By China Firm

Akimoto flew in private jet prepared by China firm

A Japanese lawmaker arrested on suspicion of taking bribes from officials of a Chinese firm flew to China in late 2017 in a private jet arranged by the company.

Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto has admitted he used the jet when he visited the firm's head office in Shenzhen, but said he paid for the costs himself.

Akimoto was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of receiving about 27,000 dollars from the firm, 500.com, in September 2017. The firm was seeking to enter the integrated resort business in Japan, which includes casinos.

At the time of the alleged bribery, Akimoto served as a Cabinet Office state minister in charge of integrated resorts. He left the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party this week after the allegations against him surfaced.

Sources say Akimoto made a three-day trip to China in late December 2017, and met top executives of 500.com at its head office.

They say the firm showed a publicity video and expressed willingness to open casinos in Japan. Akimoto reportedly encouraged the efforts.

The sources say he flew from Haneda to Shenzhen in a private jet. He then traveled to Macao to inspect casino facilities. He was reportedly driven around Macao in a luxury vehicle.

500.com officials under arrest on suspicion of bribing Akimoto, including adviser Masahiko Konno, allegedly accompanied him during the trip.

LDP lawmaker Takaki Shirasuka and former lawmaker Shigeaki Katsunuma, also of the LDP, reportedly accompanied him.

A political fund report filed by Akimoto's support group logged some 23,400 dollars as travel expenses on December 26, 2017. It showed the payment was made to a Hong Kong firm related to Konno.

Akimoto told NHK on Tuesday he visited Shenzhen, a city with many IT firms, and just dropped in on the company in question as he knew its officials from an earlier symposium he attended.

He admitted that he traveled in the firm's jet, but said he paid the fees as billed and logged it in a report.

He said he also paid the travel expenses of his two LDP colleagues.

Akimoto denied that the firm had asked him for any favors or that he gave it favorable treatment. He said he never received any money from the company.

Sources close to the investigation say arrested officials including Konno told prosecutors they handed the money in a paper bag directly to Akimoto.