Former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya divulged Thursday that lawmakers Fumio Kyuma and Fukushiro Nukaga were among those wined and dined by a former executive of defense equipment trader Yamada Corp. now at the center of a widening corruption scandal.
Both Kyuma and Nukaga, the current finance minister, previously served as defense chief.
However, Moriya, testifying under oath to the House of Councilors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, again denied that he gave preferential treatment to Yamada in its business with the Defense Ministry.
At the same time, he often dodged many of the questions by saying, “I do not remember.”
Moriya, 63, who retired as the top defense bureaucrat at the end of August, could be charged with perjury if he is found to have made false statements in the session.
In his second testimony before the Diet, Moriya said he regretted not halting his paid golf outings with Motonobu Miyazaki — the former executive of Yamada Corp. now under arrest for alleged embezzlement — due to his position as head of the defense bureaucracy.
“The (Self-Defense Forces) members are working very hard under various conditions day and night, but because of what I did, they have also lost the public’s trust,” a tearful Moriya said.
“I will take full responsibility for what I did, but I cannot bear to see that they are also being looked upon with suspicion,” said Moriya, who added that he would return his retirement allowance to the state coffers.
After repeatedly refusing to name any politicians, a weary looking Moriya finally relented and said that he believed Kyuma and Nukaga were entertained along with him on separate occasions by Miyazaki last year or the year before.
Nukaga and Kyuma are both senior lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party.
In a separate news conference later in the day, Nukaga claimed he “did not remember” being wined and dined with Moriya, and denied he was entertained by Miyazaki on any other occasions.
Kyuma served his second stint as defense chief in the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but was forced to resign in July after stirring up controversy with remarks that were taken as justifying the 1945 atomic-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the testimony, Naoto Kan, deputy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, said Nukaga and Kyuma must explain in detail about their relationship with Miyazaki.
Kan said that deliberations on legislation by the Upper House committee, including the antiterrorism bill that cleared the Lower House earlier this week, will not resume until Kyuma and Nukaga give their accounts. The DPJ-led opposition camp has control of the upper chamber.
Earlier Thursday, Yamada Corp. President Yoshihiko Yonezu gave unsworn testimony to the same Upper House committee. Making his first official public appearance since the scandal broke, Yonezu denied Yamada’s organized involvement in the alleged cozy ties between its former executive Miyazaki and Moriya.
The wining and dining of Moriya was “something (Miyazaki) did at his own discretion, and Yamada Corp. did not order it,” Yonezu claimed.
Yonezu also said Miyazaki had treated Moriya to about 300 golf outings, costing the company ¥15 million between April 1998 and May 2006.
In the Oct. 29 testimony before a Lower House committee, Moriya said he had played golf with Miyazaki roughly 200 times over the past 12 years and that he had paid ¥10,000 each time.
Yonezu, however, told the committee that no record of such payments from Moriya existed. Yonezu also said the company provided other types of support, such as when Moriya’s daughter applied to enter a U.S. university that had previously received donations from the company’s founder.
Miyazaki, 69, left Yamada along with 30 other employees and established rival defense contractor Nihon Mirise Corp. in June last year.
Miyazaki was arrested Nov. 8 on suspicion of embezzling some ¥117 million from Yamada Corp. while allegedly obtaining a huge slush fund through the firm’s U.S. subsidiary. Yamada’s former operating officer, Tomonari Imaji, 57, was also arrested as Miyazaki’s coconspirator.
On Tuesday, Osamu Akiyama, a former president of the U.S. subsidiary of Yamada Corp., was also arrested on suspicion of collusion in the embezzlement.
Investigators suspect Miyazaki used the fund to establish Nihon Mirise and also to entertain Moriya and other Defense Ministry officials.
Yonezu on Thursday said Yamada has sued Nihon Mirise for damages for obstructing its business. Nihon Mirise last year replaced Yamada as the agent handling the proposed sale of General Electric Corp. jet engines to the SDF.
At the Lower House committee on Oct. 29, Moriya testified under oath and admitted to receiving favorable treatment from Miyazaki, including the golf outings as well as gifts and meals on numerous occasions.
In his testimony, Moriya said politicians, including a former defense chief, were also present but refused to name them.
It is a violation of the ministry’s ethics code for its officials to be entertained by members of industries under its jurisdiction.
In front of the Lower House committee members, a majority of whom are lawmakers from the ruling bloc, Moriya admitted that golfing with someone with interests in the ministry was wrong, but denied giving any special favors for Miyazaki because of their close ties.
Investigators, however, suspect that Moriya gave favors to Yamada and Nihon Mirise regarding the procurement of GE jet engines. They began questioning Defense Ministry officials Tuesday to determine if Moriya gave favors to Miyazaki.