Tsukasa Akimoto trial: envelopes of cash in a bag of sweets

Tsukasa Akimoto, trial

The Japanese public’s image of IR development is sure to suffer as details emerge of the alleged bribery of former Senior Vice-Minister of the Cabinet Office Tsukasa Akimoto.

On Thursday it was the turn of former 500 .com adviser Katsunori Nakazato to testify in the Akimoto trial. Nakazato has already plead guilty for his part in the scheme, and now he put the finger on Akimoto, who has fiercely denied all wrongdoing.

According to Nakazato, on September 28, 2017, he prepared a JPY3 million (US$27,300) cash bribe in the men’s toilet in the first floor of the House of Representatives office building by putting the cash in envelopes and hiding it in a bag filled with yokan, traditional Japanese red bean sweets.

Upon meeting Akimoto in his House of Representatives office, Nakazato testified that he put the contents of bag on the table, cash and sweets alike, and said, “This is a little consideration for the efforts of the team.” Akimoto allegedly responded by saying, “I’m very grateful.”

Nakazato clarified to the court that the bribe was “intended to boost the prospects of an IR in Japan, as he was a vice-minister in charge of that portfolio.”

In addition, Nakazato testified that he himself rejected a bribe offered last June in which an agent sent by Akimoto had tried to induce him to change his court testimony and say that he had never met Akimoto in September 2017, nor given him the bribe.

Nakazato also testified that he gave other lawmakers smaller cash bribes on the same day as he had bribed Akimoto, but he did not go into detail because prosecutors, for some reason, have decided not to pursue those others, focusing all their attentions on Akimoto.

One final nugget to come out of the day’s testimony was that Akimoto allegedly provided some non-public information to 500 .com as a reward for its bribe, including the notion that the central government had already decided which local governments would win IR licenses: “The first place will be Osaka; the second place will be Yokohama, and the third place will be a regional area.”