Embattled lawmaker Muneo Suzuki on Tuesday denied during his testimony before a Lower House committee session that the money he received from a Hokkaido-based lumber company in 1998 was in return for political favors.

The two-hour closed session of the House of Representatives steering committee is part of the procedural process required before the Diet can permit prosecutors to arrest Suzuki.

Suzuki is expected to be arrested after the Lower House gives its approval at a plenary session vote on Wednesday afternoon. Top executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed Tuesday afternoon that the party would vote in support of Suzuki’s arrest.

During the session, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama and another ministry official explained the criminal charges against Suzuki. After they left the room, Suzuki joined the committee members and offered his side of the story.

“The things I have been accused of having done are not true,” Suzuki said, according to a committee member. “I apologize to the public and members of the committee for causing such a situation.”

Suzuki, escorted by Diet guards into the committee chamber, did not speak to reporters before or after giving his 25 minute statement.

Reading from a prepared statement, Suzuki said the president of the Yamarin lumber company, a longtime supporter, had given him 4 million yen as congratulatory money after he became deputy chief Cabinet secretary in the Cabinet of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

He denied pressuring the Forestry Agency to give preferential treatment to Yamarin, and said he later returned the money.

Suzuki criticized prosecutors for targeting him, claiming the investigation is aimed at his arrest rather than clarifying the facts, according to the committee members.

Participants at the session said Suzuki seemed calm as he read out his statement, unlike his tearful display as he gave testimony before the Lower House Budget Committee in February and March.

According to the Justice Ministry, Yamarin executives visited Suzuki at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and asked him to line up preferential treatment from the Forestry Agency in the awarding of discretionary contracts at national forest public auctions.

The Yamarin executives then handed 5 million yen to Suzuki’s aide as a token of gratitude, ministry officials said.

The Justice Ministry told the committee session that it had judged the money to be a bribe, based on comments by Yamarin executives and Forestry Agency officials.

Suzuki must be arrested as he may try to destroy evidence, panel members quoted ministry officials as saying.

Meanwhile, the ruling bloc and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan agreed the same day that the coalition proposal to extend the current Diet session by 42 days to July 31 would be voted on during Wednesday’s Lower House plenary session.

The two sides also agreed to hold a Lower House health and welfare committee session on Thursday to ask last-minute questions before a package of medical bills are put to a vote at the plenary session. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to attend the session.

The ruling bloc pushed through the medical expenses bills in the committee last week while the opposition parties were boycotting committee deliberations.

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