National / Politics

New trade chief slapped by S&M scandal after only three days on job

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was Thursday dealing with another ministerial accounting scandal, after the office of newly appointed trade minister Yoichi Miyazawa admitted it had paid ¥18,230 to a sadomasochism sex show bar in Hiroshima.

Kyodo News first reported the scandal, citing an entry in Miyazawa’s official political fund report for 2010.

The ¥18,230 was paid to Mazan, an adult-entertainment bar in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward. The bar offers visitors a live S&M show featuring a woman in underwear tied up in ropes. Enthusiasts are invited to join in.

Reporters performing due diligence confirm that at least one blog on the Internet carries images of the scene.

“It came right out of the blue,” Miyazawa told reporters at his ministry later Thursday. “I swear I didn’t go there . . . I’ve never even heard of the bar’s name.”

Shigeru Muta, a secretary to Miyazawa, told The Japan Times that the expense arose when a member of the office staff went to the bar privately. He underscored that the visit did not involve the minister.

Miyazawa is an Upper House member from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a nephew of former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

Muta said the expense was “very inappropriate” and that Miyazawa’s office intends to recover the money from the staffer. It may also amend its political funds report declaration.

The revelation is particularly embarrassing for Abe’s Cabinet because it was only Miyazawa’s third day on the job. He replaced Yuko Obuchi, who resigned on Monday after only seven weeks in the post, brought down by her own office’s allegedly shady spending of political funds.

Justice Minister Midori Matsushima stepped down the same day because of an alleged violation of the election campaign law.

Matsushima reportedly distributed cheap “uchiwa” (rigid handheld fans) to summer festival-goers in her constituency in Tokyo. Donations of any goods of certain value to potential voters is prohibited under the election law.

Meanwhile, the chief accountant of Miyazawa’s office is unlikely to be punished under the Political Funds Control Law because the amount of the expense was so small and the name of the bar and the amount of the expense were correctly recorded, said Hiroshi Kamiwaki, professor of law at Kobe Gakuin University.

But Kamiwaki pointed out that political parties receive huge sums of state money to support the political activities of their members, and that scandals should be no laughing matter for voters.

“The amount of the money may sound small, but (taxpayers) should keep a close eye” on the way lawmakers are managing their political funds, Kamiwaki said.

Staff writer Kazuaki Nagata contributed to this story.

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