After the company was linked to new corruption charges against a Japanese politician, 500.com, Chinese online sports lottery operator has officially lost its CEO.
The Nasdaq-listed 500.com announced on Sunday, that Zhengming Pan, its CEO had given his resignation effective immediately. Pan steps down one month after 500.com agreed to his request to “temporarily step aside” while an independent investigation was underway into claims of corruption relating to Japan’s casino licensing process.
As reported by calvinayre.com, 500.com has been defending itself ever since Japanese authorities accused Tsukasa Akimoto, ex Liberal Democratic Party member with accepting bribes from 500.com to increase the company’s chances of gaining one of three available Japanese casino licenses.
Since 2015, when China prohibited online lottery sales, 500.com has been struggling financially. The company has been trying hard to expand its revenue streams, mostly without success, and seemingly thought a Japanese casino license would help their cause.
Akimoto had to face a new bribery accusation on Monday, following disclosures that he’d accepted ¥2m (US$18,400) from 500.com during a 2017 outing to the company’s Shenzhen headquarters. Akimoto, who has repeatedly denied any unlawful activity, supposedly told authorities the funds transferred to his account were for ‘speaking fees’.
Ahead of the new indictment, Japanese media stated that Akimoto had asked 500.com execs to buy luxury goods worth ¥100k on his behalf during a company-funded ‘fact-finding’ trip to a Macau casino. Akimoto supposedly told police that he’d been keen to purchase the items himself but 500.com offered to pay, and this was “within the scope of commonly accepted social norms.”
The casino which Akimoto visited was supposedly run by Melco Resorts & Entertainment (MRE), whose Tokyo offices were visited in mid-January by Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office . MRE, which is willing to win a casino license in Yokohama, has not publicly commented on the situation yet but is supposedly cooperating with prosecutors in their inquiry of Akimoto’s alleged wrongdoing.