Akira Amari’s aides were given ¥8 million more than what the former economy minister admitted to when he announced his shock resignation from Cabinet last week, an employee of the construction firm at the center of the graft allegations has claimed.
Takeshi Isshiki, 62, said Wednesday he gave Amari’s aides the sum on top of the ¥6 million Amari claimed they had received from the Shiroi, Chiba Prefecture-based company.
He said more than 50 cash payments of ¥150,000 to ¥200,000 were made as “gratuities and expenses for mediation to gain an advantage in compensation talks with the Urban Renaissance Agency” over a conflict involving a housing development project.
The government-owned agency agreed to pay around ¥16 million in May 2012 and around ¥220 million in August 2013 in compensation after several years of negotiations over the dispute, which involved the removal of construction materials and equipment from land that was to be part of a town development project.
The company is also in talks with the agency over compensation for the removal of industrial waste from a lot it had leased.
The weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun on Jan. 20 broke the story about Isshiki’s payments to Amari’s office to influence the protracted compensation talks with URA.
At a news conference in which he resigned on Jan. 28, Amari admitted that the construction company had handed over ¥6 million, saying he received ¥500,000 in person at his ministerial Tokyo office in November 2013 as well as ¥500,000 at his Kanagawa electoral office in February 2014.
In August 2013, one of his aides received ¥5 million and spent ¥3 million of the sum, Amari said.
However, Isshiki said the additional ¥8 million was given to Amari’s aides in 53 payments between August 2013 and December 2015. A total of ¥350,000 was also handed over in March and April last year to pay for gift cards for an official at the land ministry, which oversees the housing agency.
Isshiki denied that the ¥1 million given to Amari in person was meant to congratulate him on becoming economy minister and support his political activities, as Amari had claimed.
He alleged that Amari was aware that it was meant to thank him for URA’s August 2013 agreement to pay around ¥220 million in compensation to the firm, and to influence future negotiations.
Separately from the compensation issues, Isshiki said he handed to an aide ¥500,000 from himself and another ¥500,000 from the company for Amari’s campaign in November 2014 ahead of a Lower House election the next month.
He said he also paid a total of ¥400,000 to an aide with the hope of smoothing the visa process for foreign acquaintances in 2014 and 2015.
Despite announcing his resignation as economic and fiscal policy minister, Amari has refused to step down as a House of Representatives member.