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Power and money in Japanese politics

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In Japanese politics, bribery and corruption occur from time to time. In a recent case, Tsukasa Akimoto, an up-from-the ranks Diet member of the Liberal Democratic Party and former state minister in the Cabinet Office in charge of integrated resorts businesses, including the introduction of casinos to Japan, was arrested on Dec. 25 for allegedly taking ¥3.7 million in bribes from the Chinese gambling company 500.com.

The casino-related bribery scandal did not stop with Akimoto’s arrest, either. Mikio Shimoji, a Diet member of Nippon Ishin no Kai, also admitted to receiving a ¥1 million bribe from an adviser of the same company. Four other LDP lawmakers were suspected of receiving money from the company, including former Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.

Diet members are representatives of the people, and are able to exert political influence over lawmaking processes and certain businesses and industries. Needless to say, they earn decent wages.

Why, then, do some Diet members end up embroiled in bribery and corruption?

The Diet is the “highest organ of the state power” and the “sole lawmaking organ of the state.” It consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives (the Lower House) and the House of Councilors (the Upper House). Both chambers are composed of Diet members who serve as “elected members, representative of all the people.”

There are three main privileges for Diet members. First, they can receive an “appropriate annual payment” from the national treasury. Second, Diet members are “exempt from apprehension” when a Diet session is open. Third, they are not “held liable outside the House for........

© The Japan Times