Disgraced lawmaker Joji Yamamoto, under arrest on suspicion of using public money to help finance his political activities, submitted a letter of resignation Friday through a lawyer to House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki.
The Lower House’s Diet Affairs Steering Committee decided later Friday to accept the resignation.
Yamamoto was arrested Monday on suspicion of fraud involving his secretaries’ state-paid salaries and resigned from the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party.
The DPJ decided the previous day to have Yamamoto retroactively stripped of his party membership before his letter of resignation took effect.
With his resignation, a Lower House by-election for his seat in Tokyo’s No. 21 single-seat constituency will be held on Oct. 22 in accordance with rules on by-elections.
The DPJ has demanded that Yamamoto, 37, quit the Diet. Yamamoto was arrested on suspicion of keeping some 20 million yen in taxpayers’ money with which he intended to pay the salary of a woman falsely registered as his policy secretary.
He took the cash over a period of nearly four years, beginning from the time of his first election to the Lower House in October 1996, according to prosecution sources.
Yamamoto registered the woman as his full-time government-paid secretary in charge of policy affairs. However, she only worked for him occasionally, the sources said.
He paid 50,000 yen to 100,000 yen a month to the woman to cover local tax imposed on the salary and used the rest for office rent in the city of Tachikawa, western Tokyo, and for political activities, they said.
DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama apologized for the scandal before DPJ lawmakers Friday.
“I keenly realize my responsibility for the fact that the DPJ, which has long advocated ‘clean politics,’ caused this kind of situation,” Hatoyama told the general meeting of lawmakers at a Diet building.
During the meeting, an Upper House member suggested that the DPJ reimburse the money Yamamoto allegedly swindled from the state’s coffer.
DPJ policy chief Naoto Kan said that it is difficult for the party to return the money allegedly taken by Yamamoto, due to procedural reasons. However, he said the party will “study ways to return it in one way or the other.”
Yamamoto was once Kan’s secretary.
DPJ Secretary General Tsutomu Hata termed the scandal “the biggest crisis for the party since its birth.”
“We have long criticized the ruling camp’s reckless handling of taxpayers’ money,” Hata said. “Nothing could justify (Yamamoto’s alleged) misappropriation of the money for his personal use.”
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