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As bribery scandals engulf Finance Ministry officials and employees of major banks, Natotaka Saeki, chairman of the Federation of Bankers Associations of Japan, announced Friday that he will resign as leader of the industry association “for the sake of the stability of the financial system.”But Saeki, who is also president of Sanwa Bank, did not touch on his responsibility as the bank’s president and said he will remain head of Sanwa, although the bank has been investigated in connection with the bribery case. “I am sorry for disturbing the public when stabilization of the financial system is being seriously discussed as an urgent matter, and I sincerely apologize,” Saeki told a hastily arranged news conference in Tokyo.By employing an ambiguous phrase that Japanese leaders tend to use when a scandal blows up, Saeki did not indicate whether it was the bank’s alleged involvement in the scandal that has forced him to resign. He said Satoru Kishi, president of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, will succeed him when the board of the banking federation gives its formal approval next Monday. Kishi, who was scheduled to assume the post in April anyway, has informally accepted his request, Saeki said.The federation consists of 149 institutions, including large, regional, trust and long-term credit banks. The presidents of the six major banks customarily rotate a one-year chairmanship, with terms beginning each April. Saeki will be the first federation chairman to resign in the middle of a term since the umbrella body was established in 1945.Financial stabilization bills, including one that would pave the way for the use of public money to enhance banks’ capital bases, have been submitted to the current Diet session. The media have pointed to the negative impact of bribery scandals on the Diet debate since two Finance Ministry officials were arrested and four big city banks, including Sanwa, were raided by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office earlier this week.The ministry officials allegedly took millions of yen worth of bribes from bankers in the form of dinners and golf outings in exchange for advance warning of bank inspections by the ministry. Saeki refused to comment on any specifics of the bribery scandals, saying that the matter is currently being investigated by prosecutors.

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