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The government in December 1999 seized a villa owned by a firm operated by the family of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, sources said Wednesday.

The seizure came after the family allegedly failed to pay overdue taxes on a 500 million yen bribe Tanaka allegedly received in the 1976 Lockheed payoff scandal, the sources said.

The fact was made known in connection with the mandatory asset report filed Tuesday by Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, a daughter of the late prime minister.

Makiko Tanaka and other family members reportedly used to use the Western-style villa in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, as a summer vacation home.

The Finance Ministry placed a mortgage on the villa in 1977 following the Lockheed scandal.

Ownership of the villa was transferred to Chotetsu Kogyo, an engineering works firm in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, from another firm run by the Tanaka family in 1985.

According to the sources, the family has paid about 400 million yen in income and additional taxes in connection with the bribes but has apparently failed to pay nearly 400 million yen in further taxes, including some 170 million yen in overdue taxes.

During the Lockheed scandal, the late Tanaka allegedly received bribes from Marubeni Corp. executives in exchange for having All Nippon Airways purchase Lockheed Corp. TriStar jets. Marubeni served as a sales agent for the U.S. aircraft maker in the 1970s.

Tanaka eschews suite

Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said Tuesday she switched to a smaller, cheaper hotel suite than the one booked for her during her Beijing trip last week to attend the foreign ministerial conference of the Asia-Europe Meeting.

Tanaka told the House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee session that she refused to stay in the luxurious suite arranged for her by the ministry and instead switched to one that cost about one-third as much.

“There was a spiral staircase in the room and more than 10 bedrooms with beds, on each of which a family of five could sleep,” Tanaka said of the suite, which she said cost 288,000 yen a night.

“It was scary. I said I couldn’t stay in the room and asked for a smaller one,” Tanaka said, explaining that it was close to midnight Thursday when she first saw the suite.

She arrived in the Chinese capital earlier in the day, before meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and attending the ASEM working dinner.

Tanaka said she was given a smaller suite, which had three bedrooms and cost 90,000 yen a night, adding jokingly, “But I only used one room, so actually it should have been all right to have paid 30,000 yen for it.”

She criticized past government leaders who have apparently been pampered in this way, saying, “I imagined the faces of the people who until now had been thinking ‘prime ministers and foreign ministers are supposed to stay in rooms like this,’ and thought to myself, ‘What in the world is this?’ “

Since being appointed foreign minister April 26, Tanaka has repeatedly said she will scrutinize Foreign Ministry practices from the perspective of “ordinary citizens,” and has described herself as “a housewife.”

The ministry was embroiled in a recent scandal in which a fired bureaucrat, who formerly handled a discretionary fund for VIPs’ overseas visits and is now under arrest, allegedly embezzled millions from the fund for his own use and padded logistics costs for such visits.

Tanaka, who spent three days in Beijing, made her international diplomatic debut at the ASEM conference.

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