Nobuharu Okamitsu, a former vice health minister now on trial on charges of taking 60 million yen in bribes from the head of a welfare business group, said in unsworn testimony June 6 at the Diet that he received the money as a temporary loan.

“It was more like that I borrowed the money temporarily because I needed some money for buying a condominium,” Okamitsu said, adding that he returned the money in the following months. Okamitsu was arrested in December on charges of taking the bribes from Hiroshi Koyama, head of the Aya Welfare Group, in July and August 1994 in return for providing state subsidies for the construction of special nursing care homes. At that time, he was director of the Health and Welfare Ministry’s Secretariat.

Okamitsu was released on bail in March, and the case is pending in court. Okamitsu has admitted receiving the money. During Diet testimony June 6, Okamitsu maintained that he did not wrongfully use the government subsidies to purchase the condominium, or to fund trips or other entertainment as widely alleged by media reports. He said, indirectly, that the money he received was not bribes. He also denied suspicions that he had Koyama pay for much of the 34 million yen required to renovate his condominium in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

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