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Prosecutors on Friday arrested the policy secretary of scandal-hit lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who himself was recently arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe in 1998.

Jun Tada, 50, is suspected of being deeply involved in the case and was aware the money was a bribe, according to prosecution sources.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office alleges Suzuki, conspiring with Tada, accepted 5 million yen from Yamarin, a logging company in Obihiro, Hokkaido, on Aug. 4, 1998, in exchange for seeking favorable treatment for the company from the Forestry Agency.

Tada is the second secretary of Suzuki’s to be arrested.

On April 30, prosecutors arrested Akira Miyano, 54, Suzuki’s top state-paid secretary, in connection with alleged bid rigging in a government-funded project on Kunashiri Island, one of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan.

Suzuki, arrested Wednesday, has denied the allegations in the bribery case, saying he received only 4 million yen from Yamarin as “congratulations” money when he was named to the post of deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Suzuki remains a member of the House of Representatives.

According to the sources, Suzuki accepted the money in exchange for using his influence to secure better treatment for the company following a seven-month administrative punishment imposed on it in June 1998 for illegal logging in national forests.

Isao Yamada, 85, Yamarin’s chairman, met Suzuki in the deputy chief Cabinet secretary’s office in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and requested him to ask Forestry Agency officials to sell it trees on national land after the end of the ban, the sources said.

The company wanted the agency to sell it an amount of trees equivalent to what it was unable to purchase under the ban and to do so outside the public bidding process, according to the sources.

During the meeting, Suzuki, 54, told Yamarin’s chairman to take the money to one of his offices near the Diet building, where Tada accepted it, according to the sources.

Suzuki then phoned a senior Forestry Agency official to ask for better treatment for Yamarin, but the official rejected the request, the sources said.

Tada is also suspected of being involved in the accounting procedure when Suzuki returned 4 million yen to the company at the end of December 1998.

Suzuki’s office gave Yamada a receipt from Suzuki’s political fund managing organization for the 4 million yen, but there is no record of a donation of that amount in the organization’s accounts, the sources said.

However, a record of a 5 million yen deposit was found in a shadowy account set up by another of Suzuki’s political fund-managing groups, which was dissolved in January, the sources said, adding that the date of deposit was the same as the date Yamarin’s chairman gave the 5 million yen to Suzuki’s office.

The prosecutors suspect Tada dealt with the financial affairs.

Tada had served as secretary to the late Ichiro Nakagawa, a former farm minister and member of the Liberal Democratic Party, with Miyano. Miyano and Tada are Suzuki’s longest-serving secretaries, and Suzuki himself was once a secretary to Nakagawa.

Suzuki was elected from Hokkaido after the sudden death of Nakagawa and sits as an independent in the Lower House after quitting the ruling LDP in March over a series of scandals.

Suzuki claims the company did not make any requests for special treatment and that he did not take any action to contact the Forestry Agency on the matter, the sources said.

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