Tokyo prosecutors on Friday searched the offices and home of Japanese ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masatoshi Akimoto over allegations he received bribes amounting to tens of millions of yen from a wind power company.
They have also questioned the president of the company, Japan Wind Development Co., on a voluntary basis regarding the alleged payments to Akimoto, a prominent LDP advocate of renewable energy, sources close to the matter said.
Photo shows Japanese ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masatoshi Akimoto attending a House of Representatives plenary session in Tokyo in June 2023. (Kyodo)
Akimoto, a fourth-term House of Representatives member, resigned as parliamentary vice foreign minister later in the day, with the Foreign Ministry saying in a press release that he had made a “request,” without providing a specific reason.
His offices in Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture, which is his electoral base, as well as his home in the city of Chiba, were searched.
Akimoto did not respond to questions from reporters at Haneda airport in Tokyo on Thursday when he returned from an overseas trip.
The lawyer for the company’s president denied the allegations, telling reporters Friday that the money was for a racehorse cooperative, set up around the fall of 2021, and “was not provided to Mr. Akimoto.”
“A lump sum was given at a certain period of time last year,” the lawyer said, adding it was used to purchase horses and that the president and Akimoto are “acquainted through racehorse breeding.”
Japan Wind Development said in a statement, “There is no proof whatsoever that our company paid bribes to a lawmaker or to any public servants. There is objective evidence to prove this point.”
For around a year through October 2018, Akimoto served as parliamentary vice minister at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
During his stint, he pushed for legislation setting uniform rules for the use of the sea by renewable energy operators, in a bid to promote offshore wind power. The legislation was enacted in November 2018.
In June that year, he told a lower house committee on land, infrastructure, transport and tourism that “operators’ expectations for the legislation are high.”
Based on the legislation, the government designated three marine zones in Akita and Chiba prefectures for electricity generation for up to 30 years. The first round of bidding for development rights, held in December 2021, was won by a consortium led by major trading house Mitsubishi Corp.
Japan Wind Development sought to join that development project, the sources said.
Established in 1999, Japan Wind Development has developed 293 turbines within and outside Japan with a combined output of over 570 megawatts, according to its website.