NHK has learned that Lower House lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto met with the top executive of a Chinese firm, which was aiming to invest in a resort project in Japan, right after he became state minister in charge of integrated casino resorts.
A Japanese man who was acting as an advisor to the firm is suspected of bringing an undeclared amount of cash into the country in violation of the foreign exchange law.
Tokyo prosecutors searched the offices of Akimoto, a Liberal Democratic Party member, earlier this week in connection with the case.
Akimoto and the executive of the Chinese firm gave a keynote speech on integrated resorts at a symposium in Naha City in the southern Prefecture of Okinawa in August 2017.
Sources told NHK that he then met the executive at his head office in the Chinese city of Shenzhen in December 2017, right after he became a state minister for both the Cabinet Office and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.
The Facebook page of an official who accompanied Akimoto on the trip shows a photo of the lawmaker and the executive in the company's lobby.
The firm's website says it deals with sports lotteries and other businesses, and that the company has a registry of more than 60 million users in 135 countries.
The sources say the executive told Akimoto during the visit that it would be greatly profitable to create a casino in Japan and attract the company's registered sports lottery members to it.
The company said in January of last year that it was considering investing in an integrated resort plan of a tourism firm that runs a resort in Rusutsu Village in Hokkaido Prefecture.
After the announcement, Akimoto met Rusutsu Mayor Tsunehachi Baya in the village and also traveled to the Hokkaido prefectural government office to meet senior officials in charge of integrated resort projects.
Prosecutors are analyzing materials they seized in the raids as they investigate connections between Akimoto and the Chinese company.
Akimoto told NHK on Saturday that he inspected the IT hub of Shenzhen in December 2017 as a political activity, not as a public duty in his capacity as a state minister.
He said he visited the Chinese firm on that trip, but was not involved in any wrongdoing.