The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly said Wednesday it will set up a special committee legally empowered to investigate Gov. Naoki Inose after his numerous flip-flops in explaining a shady loan he received from the Tokushukai medical group.
Inose was grilled for a total of 20 hours over four days in the past two weeks by a committee in the assembly. In the course of the questioning, he backtracked on remarks several times, triggering protests from the assembly and casting doubts on the credibility of his story.
By setting up the special committee in line with the Local Autonomy Law, Inose or any party called to testify before the committee could be fined or charged for refusing to testify or for committing perjury.
It will be the first time the Tokyo assembly has ever formed such a panel involving a governor.
A source also revealed Wednesday that Inose was told by Torao Tokuda, the founder of Tokushukai and its former head, in November 2012 that he intended to acquire a hospital run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. located in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.
Tepco announced in October 2012 that it planned to sell the hospital as part of streamlining measures to deal with the staggering costs it faces stemming from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant catastrophe.
Earlier this month, Inose told the Tokyo assembly that he did not discuss the matter with Tokuda during their meeting.
Inose also claimed the plan to sell the Tepco hospital and the ¥50 million he “borrowed” from Tokushukai are completely different matters, and he denied being asked by the medical group for any favors or providing any.
Tokushukai had joined in the bidding for the Tepco hospital in August but withdrew as soon as it faced a criminal investigation by Tokyo prosecutors over alleged election campaign violations, at the time centered around the founder’s son, Takeshi Tokuda, who won a seat in the Lower House last December on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket.
Inose is under fire for accepting ¥50 million from the scandal-hit Tokushukai hospital organization ahead of last December’s gubernatorial election. He has repeatedly said he borrowed the money for personal purposes not linked to his campaign, and the money was not reflected in his campaign’s financial report.
LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura on Wednesday called for Inose’s resignation, a first for a senior LDP lawmaker.
“The fact that he received a large sum of money from someone who does business related to his authority (as governor) is enough to warrant his resignation,” Komura said, referring to the powers a governor has in approving the opening of hospitals.