Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara acknowledged Friday that he unknowingly accepted illegal donations from a foreign national and said he would return the money.

The issue was brought to light by Shoji Nishida of the Liberal Democratic Party during deliberations in the Upper House Budget Committee. The Political Funds Control Law prohibits lawmakers from receiving donations from non-Japanese citizens or foreign companies.

Maehara told the panel he learned Wednesday he got ¥50,000 from “a foreign resident of Japan.” Nishida claimed the foreigner donated ¥200,000 over the past four years.

“Someone told me yesterday (that) I received donations” from the resident, Maehara said. “I would like to return the money and correct the political funds report.”

According to Maehara, the donor owns a Korean barbecue restaurant in the neighborhood where he moved to while in junior high school in Yamashina, Kyoto Prefecture. Maehara said the two have had a close relationship that predates his political career, but indicated he was unaware his acquaintance was donating funds.

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