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Suga urges his 1st son to cooperate with scandal probe

  • February 4, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 9:35 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Feb. 4 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that he has instructed his first son on the phone to cooperate with a possible investigation into a wining-and-dining scandal involving the 39-year-old son.

The scandal was initially reported by a weekly magazine. The report said that four senior Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry officials, including Yasuhiko Taniwaki, vice minister for policy coordination, were separately wined and dined by Suga’s son, who works for Tokyo-based satellite broadcast-related firm Tohokushinsha Film Corp., at sushi or other restaurants between October and December last year and received taxi tickets from him, possibly in violation of the national public service ethics act.

The scandal is likely to deal another blow to the Suga administration after controversial visits late at night to hostess bars in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district by some ruling bloc members last month during the government-declared ongoing state of emergency over the coronavirus crisis, pundits said. The opposition camp is set to grill the administration over the fresh scandal.

The ministry has authority to give satellite television broadcasting licenses. The son served as secretary to Suga when he was internal affairs and communications minister.

The behavior by the four ministry officials may have amounted to acts of receiving entertainment, or money or goods from interested parties, which are banned by ethics rules under the national civil service ethics act, sources familiar with the situation said.

“I want the ministry to respond in accordance with rules, so as not to cause suspicions among the people,” Suga told a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament.

On his relationship with Tohokushinsha, Suga said he has received support from its president, who is the founder of the company, because they are both from the northeastern Japan prefecture of Akita.

Suga said he told his eldest son over the phone to cooperate if an investigation is started over the wining and dining case.

Still, the prime minister said that the son is a “completely separate individual” and that the son “has his own family and privacy,” suggesting that the scandal should not be up for deliberations at the Diet.

At the committee meeting, Yoshinori Akimoto, head of the ministry’s Information and Communications Bureau, admitted that he has had dinner with the son of the prime minister.

Akimoto said he did not initially pay the cost of the dinner as he had thought that there was no participant with interests in matters related to the duties of the ministry. Akimoto said he later paid part of the bill.

Tohokushinsha said in a statement that it will take appropriate responses after looking into the matter.

The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party hope to escape damage from the entertainment scandal, claiming that it involved Suga’s son and the ministry. The issue “won’t affect the prime minister,” a senior LDP official said.

Meanwhile, a Lower House member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said at the Budget Committee meeting that the scandal involves the Suga administration.

Kazuo Shii, head of the Japanese Communist Party said at a press conference, “I want the prime minister to give an explanation about whether the entertainment case had led the broadcasting administration to have been distorted.”

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