Tokyo prosecutors have searched offices of a ruling party lawmaker in connection with a Chinese firm suspected of illegally bringing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of cash into Japan.
The special investigative team on Thursday raided two offices in Tokyo of Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member Tsukasa Akimoto.
The firm is interested in entering what are called integrated resort projects that include casinos in Japan, which legalized such resorts in July 2018.
Akimoto was in charge of such projects while doubling as state minister of the Cabinet Office and land, infrastructure, transport and tourism until October 2018.
In August 2017, Akimoto and the Chinese firm's top executive gave keynote speeches at a symposium on integrated resorts in Okinawa, southern Japan, just before he was appointed state minister.
Sources say executives of the firm frequently met officials of Rusutsu Village in Hokkaido, northern Japan, which was aiming to host an integrated resort. Akimoto is said to have attended the meetings.
The investigative team is expected to shed light on ties between Akimoto and the firm, and the flow of money. It has already obtained related data from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry as well as Hokkaido and other entities.
Akimoto tweeted on Thursday afternoon that he's sorry for causing concern, but denied involvement in any wrongdoing. He emphasized that he will make his case.
The firm's website and other information say its main office is in Shenzhen and that it deals with sports lottery and other businesses. It has a registry of more than 60 million users in 135 countries. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013, 12 years after it was founded. Its accumulated sales volume is reportedly about three billion dollars.
The firm founded a Japanese affiliate in Tokyo in July 2017.