In Japan and the bribery scandal that began with prominent politician Tsukasa Akimoto (pictured) and Chinese sports lottery firm 500.com has now reportedly grown to embroil Asian casino giant Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited.
According to a report from Inside Asian Gaming citing multiple local sources, the Hong Kong-headquartered casino operator had its Japanese offices raided by representatives of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday as part of an investigation into whether it was ‘a possible party to bribery’.
Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited is already responsible for Macau’s giant Studio City Macau, City of Dreams Macau and Altira Macau facilities but is eager to win the right to operate one of a trio of coming Japanese integrated casino resorts. The firm earlier abandoned a plan to bring just such a $10 billion facility to the city of Osaka and is now thought to be concentrating its efforts on Yokohama where it is likely to face stiff competition from the likes of American rivals such as Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Wynn Resorts Limited.
Inside Asian Gaming reported that the action against Melco Resorts and in Japan had also encompassed an analogous January 17 raid in which a number of documents were said to have been seized. Authorities purportedly allege that Akimoto had earlier visited the operator’s Tokyo offices although the firm used a subsequent statement to proclaimed that ‘no perks such as meals or accommodations or entertainment were provided and no benefits were received.’
Reportedly read the statement from Melco…
“We can’t comment on the investigation. Akimoto visited but nothing illegal occurred.”
Akimoto had been serving in the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, as Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. However, he was arrested on Christmas Day and subsequently charged over claims that he may have accepted up to ¥7.2 million ($65,370) in illegal bribes from 500.com so as to help smooth the Shenzhen-based firm’s path towards receiving a license to bring an integrated casino resort to either Hokkaido or Okinawa.