Fumio Kyuma, the acting policy research council chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, was photographed with a senior member of a crime syndicate while serving as Defense Agency chief in 1997, sources close to the case said Thursday.

Kyuma, a 60-year-old House of Representatives member, had his picture taken in October 1997 with a leader of a gang linked to the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza group, the sources said, adding the photo was taken in Kyuma’s office in the Defense Agency building, located at that time in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

Kyuma told reporters, “I don’t remember who the visitors were as I took pictures with a number of people in many places, and I cannot check it.”

The sources said four people, including the 51-year-old gangster and a 57-year-old real estate company president, visited Kyuma and were photographed with him.

In the photo, Kyuma is sitting in a chair in front of a desk with a plate inscribed with his name and official title as director general of the Defense Agency. Four men are standing around him.

Police said the gangster was arrested two months later. In December, the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza group broke its ties with him.

Police also said the company president allegedly has close ties to rightwing groups. The identities of the two other men are yet to be confirmed.

Kyuma was elected for the first time in Nagasaki’s No. 2 constituency in the 1980 Lower House election and is currently serving his seventh term. He served as defense agency chief from 1996 through 1998.

He also served as parliamentary vice minister of the former Transport Ministry.

Kyuma has served as the LDP’s acting policy research council chairman since May.

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