Wind Power Firm President’s Home Raided

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Officials of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad enter the building where the president of Japan Wind Development Co. lives, in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday morning.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office conducted a search of the home of the president of Japan Wind Development Co. in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Saturday morning in connection with allegations that ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masatoshi Akimoto’s side received money from the company side.

Also on Saturday morning, Akimoto submitted a notice of his resignation from the LDP, which was accepted by the party.

The president of the wind power company is Masayuki Tsukawaki, 64. The company aims to enter an offshore wind power business for which the government has designated Aomori Prefecture’s Mutsu Bay as a possible candidate site. It also tried to join projects in two offshore areas off Akita Prefecture through public bidding. Akimoto repeatedly asked questions in the Diet that encouraged bringing the company into the business.

Prosecutors believe that the money may have been a reward for Akimoto’s questions in the Diet.

The criminal allegation of opaque money from a company seeking to enter the offshore wind power business, through which the government aims to promote decarbonization, may undermine public acceptance of the business.

In December 2021, a consortium of companies led by Mitsubishi Corp. was selected as the operator of planned wind projects in three offshore areas, including the two in Akita, due to low electricity price they offered. Japan Wind Development failed to participate in the project. Later, in February 2022, Akimoto mentioned at the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives that “from now on, the evaluation should focus on the price and the timing of the start of operation.”

The government announced the next month that it would revise the screening criteria, resulting in an evaluation system that gives more weight to operators who aim to start operations sooner, leaning less heavily on price.

According to Tsukawaki’s attorney, Akimoto and Tsukawaki are fellow racehorse owners who established a horse owners’ association in the autumn of 2021, with both parties paying for the purchase of horses and other expenses.

The prosecutors believe that a total of approximately ¥30 million that Tsukawaki covered on more than 20 occasions from October 2021 through June this year constitutes the provision of money to Akimoto’s side. But Tsukawaki’s attorney claims that the money was provided to the association, not to Akimoto, and does not constitute a bribe.

The prosecutors conducted searches of Akimoto’s office in the building for lower house lawmakers in Tokyo, his local office in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, and his home in Chiba City.

Akimoto was first elected as a lower house lawmaker in December 2012 and is currently serving his fourth term after winning a seat in the Southern Kanto proportional representation block. He has served such positions as parliamentary vice minister for land, infrastructure, transport and tourism and deputy secretary general of the LDP. He became parliamentary vice foreign minister last August, but submitted his resignation on Friday, citing personal reasons. His resignation was finalized.