Japan’s former defense minister Takeshi Iwaya has denied receiving money from a Chinese company involved in a casino bribery scandal.
Iwaya, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party member who has a seat in the Lower House, was one of five lawmakers questioned by Tokyo prosecutors on a voluntary basis for their alleged receipt of cash from a Shenzhen-based company, reported The Japan Times.
“I absolutely deny it,” Iwaya, a politician from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said in a televised press conference Saturday. “From the perspective of laws regulating political funds as well, it’s impossible that I received donations from a foreign firm.”
Local media reported earlier the Chinese company under investigation said that five lawmakers including Iwaya had also received around 1 million yen ($9,252) each.
Iwaya has been a member of the ruling party’s gambling resorts project team.
Tokyo prosecutors arrested a ruling party lawmaker last month on suspicion of receiving bribes from the Chinese company seeking to invest in the casino sector. The payoffs may have amounted to about 3.7 million yen ($34,000), the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s office said, with the bribes including cash, plane tickets and hotel rooms.
According to Bloomberg, the case has dealt a blow to already unpopular plans to open the country to the gaming industry.
Japan legalized casino gambling in 2016 to great excitement in the industry, where many have long tried to get a foot in the door in a potential $20 billion gaming market. Companies including MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have spent heavily to get access to a gaming market that could become Asia’s second-largest after Macau.
Three years later, some of that enthusiasm is wearing off. A number of casino executives, who declined to speak publicly because of the sensitive nature of the casino approval process, told Bloomberg News that the procedure in Japan has been more difficult compared with other markets that have built gaming industries. DB/Agencies