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Two more Cabinet ministers ensnared in money scandals

by

Staff Writer

Two Cabinet ministers admitted Friday that the Liberal Democratic Party chapters they respectively headed accepted a total of ¥2 million in donations in 2013 from a company that was scheduled to receive government subsides, giving more ammunition to opposition lawmakers feeding on the Abe administration’s money scandals.

During a Lower House Budget Committee session, Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki admitted receiving ¥1.4 million, and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa ¥600,000, from Shizuoka-based logistics firm Suzuyo & Co.

The two were both elected in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Both claimed they did not know of the plan to grant subsidies when they received the donations, and denied anything illegal had transpired.

The Political Funds Control Law bans companies from making political donations for a year after being notified by the government that they will receive subsidies. Politicians can be punished if they know about the subsidies when accepting donations from such companies.

The admissions are likely to give the Abe administration another headache to deal with, as the opposition now has political capital to keep grilling the two and thereby stall Diet deliberations on key government-sponsored bills, including the fiscal 2015 budget.

Farm minister Koya Nishikawa stepped down on Monday over a similar financial scandal. He , too, denied there was anything illegal about a¥3 million donation made to the LDP’s Tochigi chapter, which he heads.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry reportedly notified Suzuyo of its decision to provide the logistics company with subsidies totaling ¥42 million, on March 15, 2013.

A special corporation affiliated with the Environment Ministry also notified Suzuyo of its decision to provide the firm with ¥170 million on Aug. 19 of the same year.

The LDP’s Shizuoka No. 4 district chapter headed by Mochizuki received ¥1.4 million from Suzuyo in December 2013, while the party’s Shizuoka No. 1 district chapter headed by Kamikawa received ¥600,000 between March and December 2013.

“It is true (the chapter) received a donation from the company in question. I didn’t know at all that the company received subsidies,” Kamikawa told the Lower House session.

“I’d like to fulfill my responsibility to explain” after conducting a probe, Kamikawa said.Mochizuki said he returned the money to Suzuyo after learning about the subsidies via media inquiries Thursday.

In addition to Nishikawa, Mochizuki and Kamikawa, the opposition has another target in its sights: education minister Hakubun Shimomura, a close, longtime friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Shimomura has been criticized for what opposition lawmakers claim are shady money flows involving unregistered support groups allegedly linked to him.

Shimomura claims the groups are private, independent organizations with which he has no affiliation, and are not engaged in fundraising or vote-gathering efforts on his behalf.

The same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he sees “no problems” with the donations made to the chapters headed by Mochizuki and Kamikawa.

Later in the day, Suga argued that checking for such subsidy plans can be tricky.

“It’s not necessarily easy to learn if a company or organization will receive government subsidies,” Suga said.

“(Politicians) should take some self-protection measures first, such as telling (potential contributors) they are not supposed to donate if they know they will receive subsidies.”