Scandal-plagued farm minister Tadamori Oshima admitted during a special Diet session Thursday that a former secretary pocketed a 6 million yen political donation in 2000.
The misappropriation is a violation of the Political Funds Control Law, opposition lawmakers said, pointing out that the secretary, Norihisa Fujita, served as manager of Oshima’s political fund management body.
Fujita was fired after Oshima learned of the secretary’s misconduct at the end of 2001, he told the Lower House Budget Committee session. The embezzled money was not recorded in Oshima’s official political funds report.
The admission is the latest in a number of shady money scandals involving the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, who has been grilled during recent Diet sessions over alleged kickbacks taken by another of his former secretaries.
During the televised special Diet session devoted to political money scandals, Goshi Hosono of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan pointed out that the owner of a building in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, donated the 6 million yen to Oshima’s office in the run up to the general election in June 2000.
Hosono said the building owner made the donation as a legitimate political contribution, but Fujita did not issue a receipt for the money.
Oshima replied that the secretary apparently used the cash as his own spending money, but the details remain unknown.
The farm minister claimed he was unaware of the donation until Fujita admitted to embezzling the cash after rumors began circulating over his misconduct. Oshima said he fired Fujita and has since returned the money to the building owner.
At a news conference later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said that Oshima should respond to any suspicions surrounding misuse of money and clearly explain himself.
During the six-hour special Diet session, opposition lawmakers bashed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for breaking his promise to weed out corrupt lawmakers.
Koizumi told a Diet session in May that he would “take one more step” to tighten regulations on political donations from companies receiving governmental public works orders. However, no progress has been made and a bill submitted to the Diet by the opposition camp to ban such donations has been shelved by the ruling camp.
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