Consumer minister’s groups linked to pyramid schemes

Kyodo

Two political groups under new consumer affairs minister Kenji Yamaoka received over ¥2.5 million between 2005 and 2008 from businesses and a group involved in a pyramid scheme, his political funding report showed Thursday.

Yamaoka, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, admitted the groups received the money but said he has recently declined such donations to avoid creating misunderstandings.

According to the report, the DPJ chapter Yamaoka heads in the Tochigi No. 4 district got ¥2.06 million in donations from two Tokyo-based pyramid scheme businesses and a political group that represented the unidentified industry from 2005 to 2008.

In addition, Yamaoka’s fund management body got ¥480,000 in 2007 from the political group, mainly in the form of attendance fees for a seminar.

A number of troubles involving soliciting and refunding have been reported over the pyramid scheme.

Yamaoka, who also heads the National Public Safety Commission as supervisor of the country’s police forces, said Thursday that “it is true” the chapter and his group received the money.

But Yamaoka also said he recognizes that the pyramid scheme, also called a network business, was being “operated legally.”

Yamaoka, who is close to DPJ veteran power broker Ichiro Ozawa, was appointed to the Cabinet posts last week by new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.