Have Allegations tainted Renewable Energy Projects?

Allegations have surfaced that a member of the Diet accepted bribes from a company in connection with a project for offshore wind power generation, which is considered to be a key renewable energy source. Authorities must thoroughly confirm whether the allegations are true.

The suspected bribe taker is House of Representatives lawmaker Masatoshi Akimoto, who is alleged to have received a total of ¥30 million in cash from a company involved in an offshore wind power generation project between 2021 and this year. The purpose of the payments is unclear.

The company wanted to enter the offshore wind power generation sector and aimed to construct facilities in waters off Akita and Aomori prefectures. After the company lost a public bid for a project off Akita Prefecture to a consortium in 2021, Akimoto called for the screening criteria to be reviewed in future tenders during a Diet debate.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office believes Akimoto repeatedly made statements that helped the company enter the wind power generation sector and received cash in return. Investigators have searched his office and other related locations.

If a lawmaker took advantage of Diet deliberations for his or her own personal interests, it is disgraceful. After the allegations came to light, Akimoto resigned as parliamentary vice foreign minister and left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but he has so far remained silent about the allegations. He should be held accountable for them.

Akimoto and the president of the company have known each other as racehorse owners. They allegedly formed a joint racehorse ownership group and shared the costs for purchasing horses and other purposes. The special investigation squad believes the funds the president contributed to the group may have formed part of the bribes.

The president’s side has denied the allegations, telling The Yomiuri Shimbun, “The money was given to the group and was not a bribe.” For what purpose was the cash provided? Did the group really exist and engage in actual activities? These points will be in focus during the investigation.

Akimoto was enthusiastic about the promotion of renewable energy and advocated a gradual phase-out of nuclear power. He is said to have pushed for the establishment of a law to facilitate the utilization of offshore wind power generation in 2018 that stipulated uniform rules for the use of offshore areas across the country.

Akimoto has also served as secretary general of the LDP’s Diet members league for the promotion and expansion of renewable energy. It is unbelievable that the leader of a group working on expediting the rollout of renewable energy is suspected of accepting cash from a company in the industry. His judgment as a politician is in question.

The government has positioned offshore wind power generation as key to the expansion of renewable energy. It has set up a system under which it designates sea areas for wind power generation and entrusts selected companies to operate in the areas for up to 30 years. It is necessary to check whether the policy has been tainted by the incident.

Political parties often have not taken any action when scandals involving money and politics have arisen in recent years. They have only said that the people in question should explain the issue themselves. Such an attitude is causing distrust in politics. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the LDP have a duty to ask Akimoto to fulfill his responsibility to explain the allegations

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2023)