At a time when the Malaysian media is filled with talks about political funding/donation, Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari, a close ally of PM Shinzo Abe, resigned on Thursday, taking responsibility for a political funds scandal. He, however, denied personally receiving bribes from a construction company in exchange for political favours, as had been alleged by a magazine.
A tearful Amari apologised for the scandal, saying it had caused embarrassment. He was Japan's chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and part of the PM Abe's inner circle.
He added any cash received by his office was a political donation but he had to take responsibility for what happened on his watch. He said his secretary had also resigned.
"I decided to resign my cabinet position today in consideration of my responsibility to oversee my secretary as a national lawmaker, my duty as a minister, and my pride as a politician," Amari, 66, told reporters in Tokyo.
Amari is the most influential minister to step down since Abe took office in December 2012. He was Japan’s point man in the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade talks, and spearheaded Abe’s strategy to boost the nation’s competitiveness.
The Economy Minister was responding to an article published in the weekly Shukan Bunshun magazine last week that alleged that he and his staff took money from an unidentified construction company, in contravention of Japan's laws on political funding
Last week, the magazine Shukan Bunshun alleged that Mr Amari and his secretaries had accepted at least Y12m ($100,000) from a construction company based in Chiba prefecture, in contravention of Japan’s laws on political funding.
“Even though I have done nothing to be ashamed of, I can’t shift the blame for creating public doubt in politics on to an official,” said Mr Amari. Doing so would be against his “aesthetic as a politician”, he said.
Mr. Amari acknowledged personally receiving a total of ¥1 million ($8,400) on two occasions from the company official, but said the money was reported according to the law on political contributions. The records his support groups filed with the local election board in 2014 and 2015 back that claim.wsj.com
Mr. Amari acknowledged at that news conference that his aides had acted improperly, citing the investigation by an independent lawyer whom Mr. Amari had hired to look into the matter. The two aides have resigned.
Mr. Amari also acknowledged that Mr. Isshiki had brought cash to his office, but he said that he had told an aide to properly record the money as a political donation.
He strongly denied the magazine’s account that he had placed the envelope with the money in his pocket. “Putting money in my suit pocket in front of a visitor,” he said, “would be lacking dignity as a human being.”
Mr. Amari said that he was resigning for the good of the country, and he noted that he had stayed on the job while battling tongue cancer.
Amari said he would continue to serve as a member of the lower house of parliament. He is being replaced by former environment minister Nobuteru Ishihara. Mr Abe has apologised to Japan.