Prosecutors to question lawmaker about suspected bribery for wind power projects

NHK has learned that prosecutors have asked a lawmaker to turn himself in for questioning over allegations he accepted bribes from the former head of a Tokyo-based renewable energy firm.

Last month, Tokyo prosecutors raided the offices of Lower House member Akimoto Masatoshi on suspicion he received large sums of money from Japan Wind Development's former president, Tsukawaki Masayuki.

Japan Wind Development had tried to win a contract for offshore wind power generation projects in northern Japan. Sources say Akimoto is believed to have received multiple requests from Tsukawaki since 2019 to pose questions in Diet sessions that would help the firm in the bidding process.

Akimoto is suspected of receiving 30 million yen, or roughly 203,000 dollars, from Tsukawaki around March 2019 when the lawmaker applied to register as a racehorse owner.

Akimoto is also suspected of accepting another 203,000 dollars between 2021 and June this year in connection with setting up a racehorse owners' union with Tsukawaki.

During a Diet session in 2019, Akimoto called on the government not to impose excessive restrictions on a wind power generation project off Aomori Prefecture, citing the effects on defense-related facilities.

After the company failed to join another project off Akita Prefecture, Akimoto took up the bidding process during a Diet session in February last year, asking that bidding evaluation standards be reviewed from the next round.

Sources say that Tsukawaki has admitted to giving Akimoto bribes in return for the lawmaker's comments in the Diet.

Akimoto reportedly said he does not understand why the money used to set up the horse owners' union is considered a bribe when he paid for part of the expenses.

Akimoto resigned from his post as a parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs on August 4 and later left the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party.