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Prosecutors question Japan lawmaker over wind farm bribery case 

Credit:  August 26, 2023 | mainichi.jp ~~

Tokyo prosecutors have questioned lower house member Masatoshi Akimoto on a voluntary basis over allegations that he received tens of millions of yen from a wind power company, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad is expected to decide whether to build a bribery case against the former ruling Liberal Democratic Party member, known as an advocate of renewable energy.

The president of Japan Wind Development Co., Masayuki Tsukawaki, has decided to admit to bribing Akimoto after initially denying the allegation when the scandal surfaced in early August, according to his lawyer.

Tsukawaki is believed to have given funds to Akimoto on more than 20 occasions, with the total reaching 30 million yen ($205,000), in the form of investments in a racehorse owners’ group effectively under the control of the lawmaker, according to a source close to Tsukawaki.

At one point in October, a staff member working under Tsukawaki brought 10 million yen to Akimoto’s office in the Diet members’ building in Tokyo after the lawmaker requested money to purchase horses, the source said.

The initial explanation provided by the lawyer was that Tsukawaki was simply making a payment as a member of the racehorse owners’ group. The group was launched by Akimoto, Tsukawaki and others around the fall of 2021.

Akimoto, a 48-year-old four-term House of Representatives lawmaker, has pushed for legislation setting uniform rules for offshore renewable energy development in a bid to promote wind power.

His pitch for the energy source has continued even after the legislation came into force in April 2019. He has made requests in parliament for the government to review assessment standards in awarding contracts for offshore wind power projects – something Japan Wind Development has also been asking for.

The prosecutors are investigating whether Akimoto’s interventions in the Diet have any connection with the funds provided by the Tokyo-based company.

They searched the offices and home of Akimoto on Aug. 4 and the headquarters of Japan Wind Development the following day.

After the bribery allegations surfaced, Akimoto resigned as parliamentary vice foreign minister and left the LDP.

Source:  August 26, 2023 | mainichi.jp

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