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An official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has tendered his resignation for receiving favors from a cooperative association in Kagawa Prefecture, ministry officials said. Tsuguo Joko, an assistant division head at the Agricultural Structure Improvement Bureau, offered to quit Tuesday after being suspended from duty for two months for accepting overseas trips and rounds of golf from the association without reporting them to the ministry. The association’s parent organ receives huge subsidies from the ministry. On Tuesday, the ministry also imposed a 10 percent pay cut for one month on Kozo Sakaue, an assistant division head at the Agricultural Production Bureau, for traveling to Shanghai with senior officials of the Kagawa association in May 1997 without notifying the ministry. Sakaue was in charge of agricultural structural improvement for the western Japan region at that time, according to the ministry.The ministry was expected to accept Joko’s resignation Wednesday. He will be the first person to quit over a series of entertainment scandals involving the ministry. A total of 23 farm ministry officials, including Joko and Sakaue, have been disciplined for accepting various favors from companies involved in the ministry’s project to improve agricultural structure. The ministry slapped the fresh punitive measures on Joko, who last month received a six-month pay cut, and Sakaue, who was severely admonished, after conducting additional in-house investigations, the officials said. According to the ministry’s probe, Joko made three trips to South Korea with the association officials from 1995 to 1997, and has played golf with them eight times in Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, and in eastern Japan since 1995. Joko and Sakaue told the ministry they partly shouldered the expense of the trips, paying between 35,000 yen and 100,000 yen on each occasion. Joko’s trips lasted three days each time, while Sakaue stayed in Shanghai for four days, the officials said. An agricultural cooperative in Kagawa Prefecture, the association’s umbrella organization, has built a processing complex for agricultural and livestock products with subsidies provided to it by the ministry in connection with an agricultural modernization project. The association operates the industrial complex. The Agricultural Structure Improvement Bureau is in charge of the project, under which the ministry offers subsidies to agricultural cooperatives to build modern facilities. The cooperative in question has received some 470 million yen from the ministry since 1995, according to investigative sources. Police are currently investigating the possibility of bribery. The ministry employees who accepted entertainment had the authority to decide which cooperative should be granted subsidies in the project, the sources said.

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