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POLITICS

Editorial: Amari must provide proper explanation of “politics and money” scandal

  • 2016-01-22 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: January 22, 2016 – p. 2)

 

 Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization Akira Amari is one of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s closest aides and a key government minister who has served as the point man for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. A “politics and money” problem has surfaced in relation to him.

 

 At the House of Councillors Audit Committee meeting, Amari was interrogated by members of the opposition parties. He stated resolutely that there was “absolutely no” “politics and money” issue and he would “fulfill his duties,” while at the same time saying “my memories of what happened are vague” and "I will look into the allegations and fulfill my responsibility to explain the situation." Are these statements not contradictory?

 

 Amari did not give a clear explanation at the evening press conference either. Denial of the allegations and talk about continuing in office should come after he fulfills his responsibility to explain.

 

 According to the article in the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, a construction company in Chiba Prefecture asked Amari to mediate in compensation negotiations with the Urban Renaissance Agency (UR). In return, Amari and his staffers received 12 million yen in cash and were wined and dined by people connected to the construction company. The article also reports that Amari was personally handed a total of 1 million yen in the Ministers’ Room [at the Diet] among other places.

 

 If this is true, Amari would be in violation of the Act on Punishment of Public Officials’ Profiting by Exerting Influence, which forbids Diet members and their secretaries from being compensated for mediation in which they exercise their influence by wielding their power. UR denies that Amari provided mediation. Even if UR’s statement is not true, it would be bribery if Amari accepted money for mediation.

 

 The cash Amari received also included a contribution to his branch of the Liberal Democratic Party, but only a portion of the contribution was recorded in the branch’s political funding report. If this were done intentionally, it would be a violation of the Political Funds Control Act (false statement).

 

 The wrongdoing was reported in detail and has the same structure as a traditional political crime. This smells fishy. No wonder Amari is being pressed to give a clear explanation.

 

 It is also curious that Prime Minister Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga are leaving Amari to handle the matter alone. The Abe administration has been plagued by a series of ministerial scandals, including the resignation of former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi over a “politics and money” matter. The Prime Minister is responsible for these appointments, and he is required to handle things harshly at times.

 

 As the government minister in charge of the TPP, Amari has the important responsibility of handling questions on TPP-related laws at the Diet. If deliberations stall over this issue, it will harm the nation’s interests.

 

 Suga again clearly stated that Amari plans to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting (Davos meeting) this weekend and the signing ceremony for the TPP in New Zealand on Feb. 4. Amari should not be permitted to attend these events without first fulfilling his responsibility to explain.

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