Opposition makes plans to grill economy chief Amari

Bloomberg, Kyodo

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan plans to urge embattled economy minister Akira Amari, who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos this weekend, to clarify graft allegations made against him in a tabloid magazine.

A key architect of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s deflation-busting “Abenomics” program, Amari and his secretary have been accused by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun of taking money from an unidentified construction company in an alleged violation of political funding law.

“I want him to show good faith and clear up the graft allegations,” Tetsuro Fukuyama, the DPJ’s vice secretary-general, said on NHK Sunday. The party wants to hear from Amari on Monday before the start of the Lower House plenary session, which is scheduled to kick off a day later, Fukuyama said.

“I feel that this is not the place to talk about my personal scandal,” Amari said in Davos on Saturday, when asked about the magazine’s allegations. “In the course of the next week I should be in a position to give a news conference.”

Earlier, Amari had expressed regret over the outbreak of the scandal.

“I apologize for causing the prime minister trouble when I’m one of the key ministers of the Abe Cabinet,” Amari said. “I have caused such a commotion. I really wish I could have come here happier.”

Amari has so far taken great pains to avoid answering questions over the scandal, saying he must first thoroughly look into what has been reported.

Shukan Bunshun reported Thursday that the total cash and expenses Amari and his aides received from the company amounted to ¥12 million ($101,000). But not all the payments were apparently logged in the minister’s political funds report.

Amari was scheduled to return home from Davos on Sunday. He is one of the key ministers in Abe’s Cabinet and negotiated the TPP deal reached in October with 11 other Pacific Rim countries.