Economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari vowed on Wednesday night to answer accusations of graft leveled against him by a weekly tabloid.
During a news conference in Tokyo, Amari — best known for the pivotal roles he played last year in helping Japan successfully strike a Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal with the United States and 10 other nations, — repeatedly dodged questions on the allegation that he and his secretary received bribes totaling at least ¥12 million over the past three years.
Online excerpts of an article to be published in this week’s issue of tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshun alleged Wednesday that Amari, 66, and his secretary accepted the money from an unidentified worker at a Chiba-based construction company over an extended period, in what would amount to a breach of graft and political funding laws.
In November 2013, the worker even met with Amari in the minister’s office to give him an envelope containing ¥500,000 as “a token of appreciation,” along with yokan, an expensive sweet bean confection, the online version of the article read.
“I will have the matter thoroughly investigated so I can be accountable and ensure there will be no public mistrust,” Amari told a packed news conference at the Cabinet Office.
He repeatedly stated that he will avoid further comment on the allegations, saying he had yet to read the article.
Still, at one point during the news conference, he said: “I swear that I have done nothing that would make me worthy of public criticism.”
Amari is credited with spearheading Japan’s successful effort last October to seal the much-awaited TPP accord with the U.S., a development likely to invigorate international trade among participating countries and make it easier for Japanese companies to expand their business overseas.