• Kyodo

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Farm minister Koya Nishikawa has admitted to receiving and later returning a ¥1 million donation from a company run by a sugar manufacturers’ group after the body received a ¥1.3 billion subsidy from the state.

“Though it was not illegal, I returned it this morning,” Nishikawa said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The donation had been made July 17, 2013, to the Liberal Democratic Party’s Tochigi No. 2 constituency branch headed by Nishikawa, the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The donation was made through a Tokyo-based building management company operated by the Japan Sugar Refiners’ Association. It came about four months after the ministry had decided to grant a ¥1.3 billion subsidy to the association.

The political funds control law bans a company from making a political donation within a year of receiving a subsidy from the state.

Though different companies, the association and the building management firm are both headed by the same individual and located in the same building.

Sugar is one of five key agricultural product categories for which Japan aims to retain tariffs in ongoing negotiations to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative.

On July 23, 2013, Nishikawa attended a meeting in Malaysia as head of the LDP’s TPP committee.

At the news conference on Tuesday, Nishikawa said the donation was not illegal as the association and the company are “different corporations.

“Though it was not illegal, I have returned the sum so no one finds the slightest doubt with respect to my official responsibility as farm minister,” Nishikawa said.

At a press briefing, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato also said the donation was not illegal and posed no problem. Opposition parties, however, look set to pursue the matter in the Diet.

“We cannot overlook this,” said Yoshiaki Takaki, Diet affairs committee chairman with the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

The association’s executive director, Shozo Yamamoto, said the donation was not illegal, adding that Nishikawa is well versed in agricultural policy and that his voice is influential.

“Briefing Mr. Nishikawa and seeking his understanding are necessary activities,” Yamamoto said.

The move came after Nishikawa said Friday that his chapter has returned a ¥3 million donation from a wood-processing firm after it, too, had been granted a state subsidy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Diet session on Tuesday that he sees “no problem under the political funds control law” with the ¥3 million donation.

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