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The chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said on Wednesday that he knew nothing of the company’s involvement with two “sokaiya” corporate extortionists or alleged illegal payoffs, but will step down from the chairmanship to take responsibility.

MMC allegedly paid money to two racketeers to prevent them from disclosing embarrassing or compromising information about the firm at its shareholders’ meetings. Four MMC executives have so far been arrested in connection with the case.

At a news conference last week, MMC President Takemune Kimura told reporters that he and the chairman were ready to step down, but this is the first time the chairman himself, Hirokazu Nakamura, has told reporters he intends to resign. “Although the case is still under investigation, and we were not directly involved in the case, I don’t think that would give me an excuse,” Nakamura said. “I would like to resign to take responsibility for causing such a stir.”

However, Nakamura said he was not aware of any problems with sokaiya, and that the general affairs department is usually entrusted with taking care of any problems. Commenting on the selection of the firm’s new leadership, Nakamura said, “It is better for the company to announce the launch of the fully remodeled RVR (sports utility vehicle), scheduled for Nov. 28, with the new president and executives.”

Kimura will select a president who has “the gift of foresight and strong leadership,” he said. Although Nakamura said he could not make the decision for Kimura, he expressed hope that Kimura would take his post after resigning from the presidency.

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