The Cabinet was shaken Monday by two fresh accounting scandals, following the resignation of two ministers last week over earlier funds scandals.
Industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa admitted that a Liberal Democratic Party chapter he heads had received an illegal donation from a foreign-owned firm, and an expenses declaration by the office of Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of women’s empowerment, showed that her team had received donations from a Kagoshima company that was once fined for tax evasion.
Miyazawa said the LDP’s chapter in Hiroshima Prefecture received a total of ¥400,000 in donations in 2007 and 2008 from a local company that is more than 50 percent foreign-owned.
The political funds control law bans politicians from receiving donations from a company controlled by foreigners.
The minister said he had been unaware of the company’s ownership, and that the sum was repaid Sunday.
“He has returned all the money immediately after realizing what happened . . . I think this is an appropriate way to deal with this situation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters, rejecting suggestions that Miyazawa’s problems were creating a headache for the administration.
A flurry of financial scandals involving Cabinet ministers has eroded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political capital and is complicating a decision he must make by year-end on whether to proceed with another unpopular rise in the consumption tax to 10 percent from October 2015, despite worries about the impact on economic growth.
Last week it was revealed that Miyazawa’s fund management body paid ¥18,230 to a sadomasochism sex show bar in Hiroshima in 2010 and listed the expense in an official report on its political activity.
On Monday, Miyazawa said the new matter had come to light amid double-checking of records over the sex bar revelation.
He said there had been five people in the party that went to the bar — including his local secretary. Miyazawa underscored that he himself had not been present.
“I made my secretary repay the money and I am now correcting my fund report,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Tokyo-based LDP chapter headed by Arimura was revealed to have received donations worth ¥600,000 from a Kagoshima-based design and construction company that was fined for tax evasion.
The company donated ¥300,000 to Arimura’s local LDP chapter on June 14, 2011, and the same sum again on Aug. 1, 2012, the reports said.
Her office said that, “We did not know (about the donations) until they were pointed out,” and that it was preparing to return the money.
The same company was found to have paid ¥300,000 to the political funds management body of Yasuhiro Ozato, senior vice environment minister, for tickets to a fundraising event on June 24, 2010, his political funds report showed.
An official at his office said there are “no problems, legally” and it has yet to decide what to do.
The Kagoshima District Court ordered the company in question in April last year to pay a fine of ¥30 million for falsifying material and outsourcing costs in a bid to reduce its corporate tax bill between July 2008 and June 2010.
Monday’s revelations came a week after two Cabinet ministers — industry minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima — resigned over separate scandals, in a major setback for the Abe administration.
The reports have dented Abe’s support ratings, although they are still at around 50 percent, and are complicating the sales tax decision.