Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday questioned Chieko Noono’s credentials to be justice minister after she repeatedly gave contradictory statements over a political funding scandal.

When asked during a session of the House of Representatives Budget Committee if she had been debriefed about a prosecutors’ investigation into a donation scandal involving Liberal Democratic Party heavyweights and the Japan Dental Association, Noono initially declined to comment.

She then changed her mind and said she had been briefed by ministry officials, but could not discuss what she was told.

A few minutes later, she insisted she had not been briefed.

This flip-flopping continued over a period of some 30 minutes before Noono confirmed that she had been briefed, and then declined to give details.

Noono, 68, was appointed justice minister in last month’s Cabinet reshuffle.

“Please be consistent,” Hirosato Nakatsugawa, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, said after questioning had drawn to a close. “I would have liked to have seen Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi here, because he appointed her.”

In 2001, the dental association donated 100 million yen to the LDP’s largest faction, then led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The money was not promptly declared in donation reports.

A number of LDP lawmakers reportedly received secret donations from the association.

Noono, a former nurse, is regarded as an expert on health and welfare issues, not legal affairs.

Koizumi car flap Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was accused Tuesday of failing to list in a political funding report a luxury car that was allegedly donated by a company and is being used by his sister, who serves as his policy secretary.

“The luxury car used by the prime minister’s policy secretary for everyday political activities is owned by a private company, and it is a donation,” Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Hisayasu Nagata told a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.

Koizumi denied the allegation, saying, “There is no problem because (the vehicle) is not used for political activities.”

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