Bureaucrats reprimanded for taking gifts

The Finance Ministry’s deputy vice minister was issued a verbal reprimand and the head of the Tax Bureau received a strict written warning Jan. 31 for careless conduct that raised doubts over the moral standards of civil servants.Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said verbal action was taken against Deputy Vice Minister Yoji Wakui, who received a painting from Junichi Izui, an oil trader who is the central figure in a massive tax evasion and bribery scandal, in late 1995. Wakui explained that he had met Izui only twice before the painting was sent as a wedding present, and said he returned it last October upon learning the man was being questioned by tax authorities.Izui had close ties with many politicians and bureaucrats, especially at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Nobuaki Usui, director general of the Tax Bureau, was issued a strict written warning for attending a fundraising party hosted by ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yoshiro Hayashi as a lecturer in December.Hayashi, a former finance minister, is currently head of the LDP’s Research Commission on the Tax System, which was debating tax revisions for fiscal 1997 at the time. Usui claimed he did not know the function was a fundraiser until later. But Mitsuzuka said the move could be taken as a violation of the National Civil Service Law, which forbids civil servants from engaging in political activities.