Casino Bribery Scandal Hits Ruling Party Lawmakers
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the last half of December 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: Casino Bribery Scandal
—Ruling party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto has just been arrested on charges of taking bribes from a Chinese company that wanted to build a casino resort in Okinawa. Akimoto had been in charge of national policymaking regarding Integrated Resorts. The last time police have carried out such an arrest of a sitting lawmaker on bribery charges was almost ten years ago, in January 2010, when then-DPJ lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa was arrested. In that case, however, it proved to be more of an effort to tarnish Ichiro Ozawa.
—Tsukasa Akimoto has been able to communicate, despite his arrest on bribery charges, his intention to resign from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a move clearly designed to limit the political fallout for the Abe government.
—Japan Communist Party Chair Kazuo Shii: “It’s a corruption case about the casinos, where foreign capitalists will suck up money from the Japanese people. If the allegations are true, he is unqualified as a lawmaker. The prime minister who appointed him and is passionate about casinos is responsible.”
—500 Dot Com bribery scandal widening as police raid the offices of two more ruling party lawmakers, Takaki Shirasuka and former lawmaker Shigeaki Katsunuma. This could become the largest Japanese lawmaker bribery scandal in decades.
—If we understand correctly, prosecutors believe that LDP lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto may have accepted ¥3 million from the Chinese lottery firm 500 Dot Com and then used to money to illegally pay off campaign supporters during an election.
—Every great political scandal needs a colorful character. This time, it looks like it will be Masahiko Konno, who was an advisor to the Chinese firm 500 Dot Com and was allegedly the bag man who brought the bribes to lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto.
—The Abe government’s instinct for coverup revealed once again. They are refusing opposition demands for information about Tsukasa Akimoto’s business trips and meetings while he was appointed to the Cabinet Office working on casino policy.
—A tasty new morsel of information: Arrested lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto served as chairman of the House of Representatives committee that passed the initial casino legislation on December 2, 2016. He railroaded it to passage over the shouting of opposition lawmakers.
—December 2017: A private jet arranged by Chinese firm 500 Dot Com flew three ruling party lawmakers, led by Tsukasa Akimoto, to Shenzhen for a meeting at the company headquarters. The three lawmakers then toured Macau in a luxury car. Akimoto says he properly paid expenses.
—Prosecutors raid the major pachinko firm Gaia (which the Japanese media frustratingly refuses to name) at which Tsukasa Akimoto had served as a consultant. Presumably, prosecutors think Akimoto received bribes from more than one company.
—Continuing its aggravating pattern of not reporting company names, the Japanese media says that “a Sapporo tourism company” is also suspected of involvement in the bribery scheme. We know from our previous reporting that this company is Kamori Kanko.
—In January 2018, 500 Dot Com CEO Zhengming Pan met in Hokkaido with executives of Kamori Kanko and issued a press release on their casino resort development plans.
—The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan establishes an IR Corruption Investigation Headquarters under the leadership of lawmaker Hiroshi Ogushi.
—Prosecutors allege that a 500 Dot Com executive was rather forthright in his communications with the head office in Shenzhen, explaining that he would “need funds for bribery” in Japan.
—500 Dot Com, the Shenzhen-based lottery operator at the center of the bribery allegations, has made its first public statement. It has formed a Special Investigation Committee, replaced its Chairman, and temporarily replaced CEO Zhengming Pan.
Rolling Coverage: Carlos Ghosn Escape
—In a stunning turn of events, it appears that Carlos Ghosn has successfully fled from Japan, arriving in Lebanon, where he has citizenship.
—If Ghosn has fled Japan as it seems he has, this will likely have a lot of negative repercussions for foreigners who live in Japan. It undermines our justified criticisms of “hostage justice” and will give credence to prosecutors who seek long detentions.
—Simply fleeing the hand of Japanese law (no matter how dubious the country’s “justice system” may be) is clearly a very bad choice. Many others will suffer, and it’s a very irresponsible move. In the long run, it probably won’t even be good for Ghosn.
—Another negative ramification is that this move will take pressure off of the real culprits; the Nissan nationalist coup-makers, the corrupt prosecutors, and the Abe government which stands behind them. Instead, the story will become all about Ghosn himself.
—Other questions will be about who was involved in helping Ghosn escape, because he clearly didn’t do it all himself. Also, for the more conspiracy minded, was there any official participation? As in, to resolve Japan’s PR nightmare over Ghosn before the trial.
—Looking over the whole course of events, the Japanese “justice system” has really hit the trifecta on this one. They’ve been Malevolent, Corrupt, and now Incompetent. Reforms on the way? Not in the Shinzo Abe Era, that’s for certain.
—First indications are that Ghosn’s defense lawyers shocked by his actions. Greg Kelly, his loyal ally, also remains in Japanese hands. Another aspect of the story is, how many of Ghosn’s own friends have been put in greater jeopardy by his flight?
—No hard facts about how Ghosn pulled off his escape, but suspicions seem to be growing that he received help from Lebanon. It is clearly a fact that he was welcomed in that country when he arrived. There are no extradition treaties between Japan and Lebanon.
—Arabic language media is telling a tale of Ghosn being smuggled out of his house in a box after musicians had given some kind of Christmas performance for him.
—Prosecutors file charges against prominent Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Akihiro Hatsushika related to allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman in a taxi.
—Lawmaker Akihiro Hatsushika applies to resign his membership in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Now that he has been charged with a crime (criminal obscenity), he apparently wants to limit the political damage for the party.
—World Economic Forum ranks Japan 121st out of 153 surveyed countries for gender equality. This is an 11 notch drop since last year. The Abe government’s complete lack of achievement is making it harder to describe Japan as an “advanced” nation in many respects.
—Mainichi Shinbun reports that in the National Diet, Abe government refused to answer lawmaker questions by saying “No Comment” a total of 420 times this year alone. That is about four times more often than the Noda government used the tactic while it was in power.
—First Lady Akie Abe back on the front lines of government scandal as it seems public funds were used on her behalf at the now-infamous cherry blossom parties. The Abe regime still unable to credibly answer about her status as a “private person” vs. a responsible official. For those who have forgotten, claiming that Akie Abe is a “private person” with no responsibility to explain her behavior was a dodge used by the Abe regime in 2017 to fend off the opposition effort to have her questioned in the Diet over the Moritomo Gakuen scandal.
—One positive, if unintended, legacy of the Abe Era may be a more serious policy to train archivists and to preserve official documents. A new system might be launched in 2021 that will begin strengthening the National Archives of Japan, making political whitewashes tougher. Of course, assuming that Shinzo Abe does step down in September 2021, it means that his own premiership will always remain something of a black hole in history. Historians looking for documentary records of what really happened inside the Kantei will find nothing.
—Aichi Prefectural Government panel offers whitewash for rightwing forces, declaring that terrorist threats that shut down part of the Aichi Triennal “did not comprise an unwarranted restriction on freedom of expression.” Message: Do your censorship before it becomes public.
—Rengo urging Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to merge with Democratic Party For the People on an equal basis. This is yet another effort by Rengo to try to water down all progressive policies by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, especially on nuclear power, and make the opposition into middle-of-the-roaders unthreatening to conservative labor unions.
—Conservative lawmakers in the Democratic Party For the People holding up opposition merger talks by trying to strip the proposed merged party of its progressive political elements. They want to turn it into a centrist party that tries to draw votes from right and left.
—Abe Cabinet approves record ¥102.7 trillion yen (about US$938 billion) draft FY2020 budget. Since this is the Shinzo Abe era, it includes another record high Japanese military budget, as it has every year since his return to power in December 2012.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe grants Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who gave his life in service to the poor and refugees, the nation’s fourth-highest medal of honor; Abe also gives Yasuhiro Nakasone, an overt racist and rightwing union-buster, the nation’s very top medal of honor.
—The Parliament of Australia may balk at ratifying new security agreement with Japan due to the death penalty. Australian soldiers who commit serious crimes in Japan could potentially face the death penalty in Japan.
—Local opposition to Aegis Ashore intensifies, both in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada calls for the siting plan to be cancelled because the Aegis Ashore “puts the existence of the town in jeopardy” for making it the first target of an attack.
—Abe government finally admitting that Henoko base construction will not be completed in FY2022. Indeed, the Pentagon is now indicating that, in any case, they plan to maintain the US Marine base at Futenma until “the 2030s or later” (or forever), calling all into question.
—As usual, the Komeito party rubber stamps another foreign military deployment, this time the Gulf of Oman mission, after briefly putting on a show of reluctance for the benefit of their more peace-oriented religious followers.
—After meeting with visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quickly gets on the telephone to report to his imperial master in Washington all that that was said and done, and again pledging “to work closely” with US policy in the Persian Gulf.
—Kyodo News: “Earlier this month, diplomatic sources said the United States had shown approval for Japan’s plan over Rouhani’s two-day visit on condition that Tokyo shared the outcome of the talks with Washington.” It’s good that Abe had a permission slip from the boss!
—¥4.7 billion (about US$43 million) of taxpayer money to be spent by the Abe government to have a destroyer and two P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplanes buzz around the Gulf of Oman pretending to contribute to “maritime security.” The Cabinet has now agreed.
—Russia Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says five Japanese fishing boats were detained for illegally exceeding their quota for octopus in the waters around the Southern Kurils. Many will suspect that this was to show who is boss ahead of Motegi-Lavrov talks.
—The five Japanese fishing boats that were detained by Russia near the disputed islands on December 17 have now been released and have returned to Hokkaido. They were accused by Russia of exceeding their octopus quota by 7.5 tons and were fined ¥11.3 million.
—Vladimir Putin notes that Russia must take into account the US-Japan Alliance when addressing the issue of the Southern Kurils: “Where is our guarantee that tomorrow new US strike weapons will not appear on these islands? This has to be a subject for our discussions.”
—Abe government ends its South Korea export curbs on one of three products subject to the recent sanctions. It’s a small sign of easing in the bilateral confrontation, and a rare concession from Abe’s hard line on Seoul. News released on Friday afternoon to avoid attention.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-In met in China and held talks for 45 minutes. Apparently, the meeting was tense and uncomfortable, but remained coldly cordial and never descended into argument. They agreed that talking is better than fighting.
—South Korea’s Constitutional Court rules that the December 2015 Japan-South Korea deal was “a non-binding political agreement” that didn’t infringe the individual rights of former Comfort Women to seek official Japanese compensation.
—Harry Harris under fire for allegedly cultivating an image like Japan’s Governor-Generals of Korea, including a moustache: “All I can say is that every decision I make is based on the fact that I’m American Ambassador to Korea, not the Japanese-American Ambassador to Korea.”
—Shinzo Abe tells Boris Johnson he wants “to further strengthen the good relations between Japan and Britain since the Anglo-Japanese Alliance.”
—Kisarazu Mayor Yoshikuni Watanabe consents to having GSDF Osprey aircraft based in his city in Chiba Prefecture. The Defense Ministry wants to move these aircraft to Saga Airport in Kyushu, but locals there have been able to put up a stronger resistance.
—Revealed that North Korea told Japan in 2014 that two Japanese men have been living in Pyongyang since the 1970s, have families, and didn’t want to return. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suppressed the information because it didn’t fit his public narrative and was inconvenient.
—The Abe government reportedly threatened the government of El Salvador that it would withdraw its loan support for a port project if it gave the operating concession to a Chinese firm. This threat was apparently delivered on orders from Washington. Kyodo News quotes Foreign Ministry official: “Beijing is looking to make inroads into Latin America, which the United States considers its backyard.” The Abe government apparently now recognizes and supports the Monroe Doctrine and US imperialism in Latin America.
—Abe government beginning to notice that there is a thing called “freelance work” that needs policy support, and they are beginning to think about measures that will give workers additional options.
—Investors have not welcomed Japan firms’ plans to deepen involvement in Russian LNG. After plans were announced for their involvement in LNG production from Sakhalin-1, Itochu, Marubeni, and JAPEX’s share prices all fell. Environmental impact is one concern.
—Under increased scrutiny and pressure from the government, Google and Facebook to begin paying part of their taxes in Japan, particularly the advertising revenues which derive from this country. Tolerance for international corporate tax evasion is beginning to shorten.
—Labor Policy Council moving toward a ban on power harassment. New policies to take effect next year will require Japanese employers to have established rules of punishment for those who engage in work-related bullying.
—Bloodbath at Japan Post. Three presidents simultaneously resign: Japan Post Holdings President Masatsugu Nagato, Japan Post Insurance President Mitsuhiko Uehira, and Japan Post President Kunio Yokoyama. This is the fallout from the illegal insurance sales scandal.
—Hiroya Masuda, who was the LDP candidate that lost to independent Yuriko Koike in the 2016 Tokyo gubernatorial election, to become the new President of Japan Post.
—Nissan Motor suffers another blow as Jun Seki, who became the firm’s No. 3 executive some weeks ago with a mandate to help lead recovery, has indicated that he will resign from Nissan to join engine company Nidec, possibly as successor to the formidable Shigenobu Nagamori.
—Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group are balking at providing the financing to SoftBank for its US$9.5 billion rescue package for WeWork.
—In a move that has largely escaped media attention, Nomura Holdings is emerging as the “savior” of the US private prison industry, as US banks have been embarrassed into divesting. Nomura organizing a US$250 million loan to CoreCivic Inc., one of the two major US companies.
—The Higashiosaka Seven-Eleven which triggered the national debate about the mandatory 24-hour business policies will be stripped of its franchise after a series of disputes between the corporate headquarters and the store owner. Legal action may follow.
—The Drone Wars: Abe government planning to make all drone owners in Japan register their drones as yet another supposed “anti-terrorism” measure.
—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who is essentially powerless to change the Abe government’s pro-coal policies, suggests that making himself a punching bag is helping the cause: “I believe Japanese awareness about environment is increasing every time I get criticized.”
—Greenpeace condemns Japanese government panel’s draft proposal to discharge radioactive water.
—Tokyo Metropolitan Government releases a nine-page English-language document titled “Zero Emission Tokyo Strategy.” The Tokyo government has set a goal of zero emissions by 2050, compared to the Abe government’s weak 2100 zero-emissions goal.
—CrowdStrike survey of companies’ speed in dealing with cyberattacks places Japan in 9th place out of 11 countries surveyed. Japanese companies are reported to take 223 hours in total to contain a cyberattack, while Mexico reports 67 hours and the UK, 70.
—Journalist Shiori Ito, who has become the face of Japan’s #MeToo movement, has been awarded ¥3.3 million damages in her civil case against against former TBS reporter and Shinzo Abe friend Noriyuki Yamaguchi, whom she says raped her.
—Scott McIntyre, an Australian freelance journalist, has been in police custody since November 28 for the effective “crime” of trying to find his kidnapped children. He faces three years in prison on charges of illegal entry to an apartment block.
—Newest figures show that Japan’s population is now disappearing at a rate in excess of 500,000 people each year as deaths far outnumber births. Indeed, in 2019 the number of births in Japan fell below 900,000, the lowest figures since the early Meiji Era in the 19th century.
—In a ruling that is not likely to age very well, Nagoya District Court Judge Tsuyoshi Momosaki declares that there are no problems with the MyNumber system: “It cannot be said that there is a risk of personal information being used outside proper administrative purposes.”
—Kawasaki Summary Court imposes nation’s first criminal punishment for hate speech, fining a man ¥300,000 (US$2,700) for racist posts on Twitter targeting a resident Korean he’d never met.
—Osaka Prefecture high school teacher facing over ¥1 million in fines from the local board of education for frequently going off behind the school gymnasium for banned on-campus smoking breaks. Sometimes, he also snuck off to local restaurants to eat and smoke.
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