• Crime & Courts

‘Japan Wind Power Firm Asked Lawmaker to Raise Questions in Diet’

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Investigators search House of Representative member Masatoshi Akimoto’s office in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, on Aug. 4.

House of Representatives member Masatoshi Akimoto — arrested Thursday on suspicion of receiving bribes in connection with wind power projects — was asked by a former company president early last year to raise questions in the Diet regarding screening criteria for wind power contractors, it has been learned.

Additionally, a February 2019 email has surfaced containing a similar solicitation for a project in waters off the coast of Aomori Prefecture.

Akimoto, 48, is said to have raised questions in the Diet in line with these requests, and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad believe Akimoto’s actions accommodated both entreaties.

Akimoto was arrested on suspicion of receiving a total of about ¥61.4 million from March 2019 to June 2023 from Masayuki Tsukawaki, 64, the former head of Japan Wind Development Co., in return for raising questions in the Diet, and other favors.

Tsukawaki’s firm lost out to a consortium that offered a lower bid in a public tender for a project off the coast of Akita Prefecture, according to sources.

Following the bidding, Tsukawaki reportedly asked Akimoto in around February 2022 to raise questions in the Diet regarding a review of the screening criteria for such projects, focusing particularly on starting operations early. During a Diet session on Feb. 17, Akimoto touched upon the review, saying, “The timing of when operations start is an important issue.”

According to the sources, an email indicating that Akimoto had asked questions in the Diet in February 2019 after being requested to do so by the company was seized by the special investigation squad. The email reportedly was sent to the lawmaker by an official related to Akimoto’s office saying the company wanted him to raise questions in the Diet regarding the Aomori Prefecture coastal project.

During a Feb. 27 Diet session, Akimoto urged the avoidance of excessive restrictions at defense-related facilities in waters off the coast of the prefecture and other locations, saying, “Offshore wind power generation should be fully developed in Aomori Prefecture.”

Regarding the money paid to the lawmaker, Tsukawaki reportedly said during voluntary questioning by the special investigation squad, “The payments constituted my gratitude for raising questions in the Diet.”

Tsukawaki reportedly has admitted that he had urged Akimoto to raise questions in the Diet regarding a project in waters off the coast of Aomori Prefecture and screening criteria issues.

Following his arrest, Akimoto issued a statement saying, “I have never raised questions in the Diet to benefit Japan Wind Development at Tsukawaki’s request.”