Nagata now admits e-mail was fake, faces Diet discipline

by Hiroko Nakata

Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Hisayasu Nagata got on the same page as his party Thursday by finally admitting the e-mail he trotted out in the Diet last month in a bid to demonstrate shady financial ties between an arrested entrepreneur and a son of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe was fake.

The DPJ suffered a major screw-up over the e-mail that Nagata alleged was an internal order by Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie to have 30 million yen sent to Takebe’s son. The DPJ admitted Tuesday the e-mail was fake, after Nagata earlier apologized for the uproar. But he had continued to stand by his allegation.

“We now realize that there was no basis for the accusation concerning the e-mail message and the bank account (described in the message),” DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said, responding to questions submitted by the LDP.

“It (the e-mail) turned out to be fake,” Nagata said in a statement. “My accusation was based on a groundless assumption.”

Nagata and DPJ executives apologized Tuesday for disrupting the Diet by the allegations, but the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito were dissatisfied because Nagata failed to declare that the e-mail was a hoax.

“We cannot be satisfied with their response. I wonder why they can’t assertively say it was a hoax,” said Ichiro Aisawa, deputy secretary general of the LDP.

The DPJ is punishing Nagata by suspending his membership for half a year, but he was not asked to give up his Lower House seat.

The party Thursday also replaced DPJ Diet affairs chief Yoshihiko Noda, who gave the go-ahead for Nagata to read the e-mail in the Diet, with Kozo Watanabe, former vice speaker of the Lower House.

Nagata showed a copy of the e-mail message to a Lower House committee Feb. 16. The e-mail read “Please urgently remit 30 million yen by the morning of Aug. 29″ as election consultancy fees, and had Horie’s surname at the end. It was earlier reported that a freelance journalist had actually sent and received the e-mail.

Nagata said Thursday he would accept responsibility for the consequences of his actions, including disciplinary measures by the Diet.

Later in the evening, the Lower House unanimously approved a decision by its steering committee to refer the matter to the Committee on Discipline, which will decide Nagata’s punishment. The panel can reprimand him, have him publicly apologize, suspend him from the Diet, or expel him.

Information from Kyodo added