A task force formed by the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan agreed Monday to persist in demanding that economy minister Akira Amari provide a clear answer to allegations that he exchanged favors for money with a construction company.
“Diet questioning will start Tuesday. We want Mr. Amari to fulfill his responsibility to provide an explanation,” Kazunori Yamanoi, head of the DPJ’s “special assignment team,” said at its first meeting.
DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Edano said separately that the party will continue to press Amari as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe through Diet debate.
“The harder (Abe) tries to protect (Amari), the more chance he will share the fate” of the economic and fiscal policy minister, Edano told reporters.
The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported last Thursday that Amari personally received ¥1 million in cash in two installments from a construction company, while his secretaries received cash and were entertained at restaurants and bars at the company’s expense over the past three years.
Amari met with Abe at the prime minister’s office on Monday. He told reporters the meeting was not related to the allegations.
Amari said Friday that he has not done anything against the law and will provide an explanation “within a week” after confirming his memory of the matter.
His resignation would seriously damage Abe ahead of the Upper House election this summer.
Amari is playing a key role in forming the Abe Cabinet’s economic policies. He was Japan’s top negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact agreed on last October by Japan, the United States and 10 other countries.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Amari will provide an explanation as promised. Suga declined to comment on the moves by opposition parties to pressure Amari.
At the meeting of the DPJ task force, which was also attended by members of the smaller Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), the lawmakers discussed with Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer and former prosecutor, the potential illegality of Amari’s acts alleged in the magazine article.
Mito Kakizawa, a member of Ishin no To, said, “We have to address the issue in a harsh manner unless (Amari) clarifies the facts and fulfills his responsibility to give an explanation.”
The magazine reported that the total cash and expenses Amari and his aides received from the company amounted to ¥12 million, though apparently not of all the payments were logged in the minister’s political funding report.
The company had asked Amari’s office for help settling a dispute with the Urban Renaissance Agency, a government-overseen developer, over compensation issues related to a road project.
The Shukan Bunshun said Amari and his secretaries may have violated the Political Funds Control Law and the law that prohibits lawmakers and public officials from profiting by exerting influence.
The magazine said an official from the construction company provided the weekly with hours of voice recordings and written records on cash transfers.