Former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya testified in the Diet on Monday that politicians, including an ex-Defense Agency chief, were wined and dined by a former executive of defense equipment trader Yamada Corp.
Moriya also admitted under oath that he had played golf more than 200 times with the executive, Motonobu Miyazaki, 69, over the past 12 years. Miyazaki left Yamada and founded the defense-aerospace contractor Nihon Mirise Corp., reportedly taking sales staff of the trader in tow in a bid to win military procurement contracts.
But Moriya, appearing before a special House of Representatives committee on antiterrorism affairs, denied that he performed any favors for Miyazaki because of their cozy ties.
Moriya said the politicians partook in the entertainment outings on more than one occasion in the last year or two.
Moriya refused to name any of the politicians, saying his memories were vague on that point. But he denied that serving defense chiefs had joined such occasions, thus excluding Fumio Kyuma, Fukushiro Nukaga and Yoshinori Ono — all Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers.
Moriya mentioned no details about the purpose of such entertainment but denied committing any wrongdoing.
“It was an inappropriate action that I had played golf with someone who has interests with the ministry,” he said.
He golfed more than 200 times with Miyazaki, who footed Moriya’s bill and in most cases his wife’s golfing fees and their dining expenses as well.
Miyazaki also paid for golf outings in Hokkaido and Kyushu with Moriya and twice gave the former top bureaucrat and his wife golf clubs as gifts.
But Moriya denied he had tried to help Nihon Mirise, the Japan sales agent for General Electric-made engines for the Air Self-Defense Force’s next-generation CX transport aircraft, strike a deal with the Defense Ministry.
Moriya, the government’s top defense bureaucrat for the last four years, retired at the end of August amid a falling out with then Defense Minister Yuriko Koike. Being lavished with such entertainment from the industry under the jurisdiction of public officers violates conflict of interest regulations.
The committee session lasted more than two hours.
Moriya could be charged with perjury if he is found to have made false statements in the session.
Lawmakers say public reaction to Moriya’s response could affect the fate of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s bid to push ahead with a bill to continue the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean for antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.
The ruling camp led by Fukuda’s LDP has tried to keep the Moriya-related scandals as low-key as possible, passing them off as Moriya’s “personal affairs,” and wants to resume debate on the bill Tuesday to seek its early enactment. But the opposition camp plans to try to use Moriya’s testimony as a tool to rock Fukuda’s administration and get to the bottom of other questionable defense deals involving the companies concerned.
Later in the day, Fukuda criticized Moriya’s ties with the defense equipment trading house executive as “excessive and lacking in common sense.”
“I don’t understand why he did such things while knowing” they were in violation of ethical guidelines for public servants, Fukuda told reporters. Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura also said he thinks the relationship between Moriya and the former executive was “abnormal.”
Information from Kyodo added
The plot thickens
Defense equipment trader Yamada Corp. mentioned involvement by the Maritime Self-Defense Force when explaining the firm’s overcharging for radar-jamming devices to former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya, sources said.
The explanation was different from what Yamada told a fact-finding team after the 2001 overbilling was revealed, the sources said.
According to the sources, Yamada employees told Moriya, when he headed the Defense Policy Bureau, that the company and senior officers of the MSDF’s Maritime Staff Office had “made arrangements in advance” to pad the bill on 24 sets of chaff and flare dispensers by ¥180 million. The contract was worth ¥810 million.
But Yamada told the fact-finding team it was the U.S. maker of the devices that made the Tokyo-based company inflate the bill, the sources said.
In February 2002, Yamada officials met Moriya and gave this explanation even though he was not involved in the fact-finding mission, they said.
Yamada told Moriya that the MSDF obtained funds for the procurement, but the amount included a “technical assistance fee,” an item not on an invoice made by the U.S. maker.
The company told Moriya that Yamada and the MSDF then “made arrangements” and added the “fee” to the real price, according to the sources.