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A Finance Ministry official accused of receiving bribes from the nation’s Big Four brokerages and a major bank admitted Thursday that he had been entertained by them, but denied returning any favors.

Takashi Sakakibara, 38, former deputy director of the Securities Bureau’s general affairs section, is suspected of taking bribes worth 3.45 million yen in the form of wining and dining from Nomura Securities Co., Daiwa Securities Co., Nikko Securities Co., the now-defunct Yamaichi Securities Co., and Sumitomo Bank. “It is true that I was entertained when I served that duty, as prosecutors said,” Sakakibara said in his first trial hearing before the Tokyo District Court. “But I have never given preferential treatment to them,” he claimed.

Asked whether wining and dining was related to his duties at the ministry, Sakakibara said, “I cannot deny that.”

According to prosecutors, Sakakibara, who is currently suspended from the ministry without pay, allegedly received bribes between 1993 and 1997 in the form of golf outings and entertainment at restaurants in Tokyo and Paris.

Sakakibara was allegedly wined and dined by Nomura on 28 occasions, at a total cost of 1.83 million yen, by Daiwa on six occasions for 376,000 yen, by Nikko on nine occasions for 449,000 yen and by Yamaichi on five occasions for 368,000 yen. Sumitomo Bank also paid for his entertainment on 14 occasions in Tokyo’s Roppongi and other places, and during golf outings, totaling about 430,000 yen, prosecutors said.

In return, Sakakibara allegedly used his influence to get early ministry approval of a new financial product for Nomura and leaked information to Sumitomo Bank on the enforcement of a law concerning financial institutions, prosecutors said.

He allegedly favored the four securities companies by working for earlier introduction of a cumulative stock investment program that they had hoped to introduce at the time, prosecutors said.

One of the ministry’s so-called career officials, Sakakibara falls into an exclusive category of bureaucrats who are earmarked for future top-level positions upon entering the ministry.

He was arrested in early March with another Finance Ministry official, Toshio Miyano, who was also suspected of receiving bribes in the form of wining and dining from the Big Four brokerages. Miyano entered a guilty plea on Monday admitting he had accepted 5.45 million yen in bribes from the four securities in exchange for favors.

The ministry stopped short of dismissing the two because it has been unable to obtain sufficient testimony from them to impose disciplinary action, according to the ministry.

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