Fukuda admits his chapter switched names on 112 receipts

by Hiroko Nakata

In an ironic twist, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda admitted Wednesday in the Diet that a Liberal Democratic Party chapter he heads in Gunma Prefecture changed the names on 112 receipts worth ¥9.5 million.

Last month, Fukuda warned his Cabinet ministers to keep their noses clean when dealing with political funds to avoid the numerous scandals that helped sink his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, and ruin the public’s trust.

Fukuda claimed the name changes were not attempts to cook the financial reports but to correct errors made on the receipts when they were initially issued from 2004 to 2006.

So far, no accounting problems have been pointed out.

The receipts were presented together with the 2004 to 2006 political fund reports compiled by the Gunma No. 4 electoral district chapter headed by Fukuda, as well as reports by another political support group linked to the prime minister.

Media reports said some of the receipts were initially issued to other Fukuda-linked groups in return for their expenses, but the names on them were later crossed out with double lines and changed to “LDP Gunma No. 4 chapter.” That has raised suspicions the chapter cooked its books.

When the receipts started drawing attention last month, Fukuda said the treasurer attached them to the fund reports to avoid the hassle of having to reissue them.

“The handling (of the receipts) was faulty as a result, and I feel responsible,” Fukuda told the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Fukuda told his Cabinet at its first meeting Sept. 26 that each minister will be individually responsible for handling their separate political funds to avoid further damaging the public’s trust in government. He said those suspected of wrongdoing will have to explain themselves.

Touching on a separate political donation case that could lead to a scandal, Fukuda admitted in the same session that he received ¥12 million in political donations from a company that was contracted for public works projects. The prime minister denied knowing the donor firm had been working on government projects.

Fukuda hints at visit Kyodo News Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has indicated he may be willing to visit North Korea to meet Kim Jong Il if negotiations over the North’s past abductions of Japanese nationals see progress.

Asked Tuesday evening about a possible visit to North Korea, Fukuda said, “There is nothing (scheduled) now, but it depends on the situation of the negotiations.”

But he added: “The negotiations have not started. So it is too early to talk about such things.”