Tsinghua-backed 500.com identified by media as involved in Japan…

Dec 26 (Reuters) – China’s 500.com Ltd, an online gambling firm, was identified by media as the company accused by Tokyo prosecutors of bribing Japanese lawmakers in the hope of building a casino in Japan.

Prosecutors, who arrested ruling party MP Tsukasa Akimoto on suspicion of taking bribes on Wednesday, have not named the company.

NHK and other Japanese news outlets have said three people linked to 500.com have also been arrested as part of the case.

500.com, which is Shenzhen-based, New York-listed and counts Chinese state-backed chipmaker Tsinghua Unigroup as a major shareholder, did not respond to calls and emailed requests for comment.

Tsinghua Unigroup told Reuters in an email that it was presently in active discussions with 500.com’s management about the investigation underway in Japan, adding that it was committed to operating lawfully wherever it did business.

Here are some facts on the company.

* 500.com has three lines of businesses, including online gaming services through a unit that holds licenses to operate from Curacao, Malta, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden.

It also offers financial technology services and physical channels that sell sports lottery tickets in China, according to its latest annual filing website

* The company opened its first online gambling site in 2001 but shut those operations in China in 2015 following a government crackdown on online lotteries.

* 500.com incorporated its Japanese unit in July 2017 but said in its annual filing that the unit does not have substantial operations.

* A Tsinghua Unigroup unit, unlisted Tsinghua Unigroup International Co Ltd, bought into 500.com in 2015 and as of end-2018, it held a 31.89% stake and 14.87% of its voting shares.

500.com founder Man San Law, who stepped down from the chief executive post in 2015, owns a 10.27% stake and 30.19% of the firm’s voting stock.

* Huixuan Wang, 500.com’s chairman since last year, is a director and co-president at Tsinghua Unigroup.

* 500.com has not been profitable since 2015.

Last year, it reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of 451.7 million yuan ($64.5 million) and revenue of 126 million yuan.

* Incorporated in the Cayman Islands, 500.Com listed website in 2013 via a share offering that raised about $75 million.

* Its shares are due to resume trading on Thursday after the Christmas holiday.

At their peak in early 2014, 500.com had a market value of roughly $1.5 billion. It is now worth less than a third of that despite a 22% climb in the stock this year.

($1 = 6.99 Chinese yuan)

(Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore; Additional reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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