Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka called on representatives of business organizations Thursday to make firm resolutions to cut all ties with “sokaiya” corporate extortionists.

“Now it is time for businesses to break disgraceful relations with sokaiya and make a new start for the 21st century,” Muraoka told leaders of 12 major business organizations during their meeting at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. “If your relations with sokaiya continue, it will lead to further public distrust in business, which will also affect the international reputation of Japanese corporations,” Muraoka said.

It was the first time the top government spokesman directly urged business leaders to sever ties with racketeers. The move came amid the growing scandal over illicit sokaiya payoffs involving major financial institutions and other leading firms.

“What is most important is that the heads of corporations raise their awareness on the issue,” Muraoka told the participants. Nine other ministers concerned, including the heads of the Justice, Finance, Transport, and International Trade and Industry ministries, also attended the meeting.

Among the 12 business organizations were the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), the Securities Dealers Association of Japan, the Federation of Bankers Association of Japan and the Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations of Japan,

During the meeting, some participants from the private sector, including Shoichiro Toyoda, head of Keidanren, expressed resolve to cut all sokaiya ties, Muraoka said. Mitsuhiro Uesugi, head of the National Public Safety Commission, who also attended the meeting, told business leaders the authority will help businesses break their ties with sokaiya.

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