National / Politics

Reconstruction minister denies misuse of political funds, underwear theft

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Reconstruction minister Tsuyoshi Takagi on Tuesday dismissed any notion he will step down and denied separate allegations that he misused political funds and stole a young woman’s underwear.

During the first Diet session since the Cabinet reshuffle in October, the newly appointed Takagi flatly denied reported allegations that he broke the Public Offices Election Law by offering funeral condolence money to constituents using political funds, stressing that he paid for the gifts with his own money.

“In each case, I visited (the family of the deceased) to pay my respects. There is no mistaking the fact that I paid (for the gifts) at my own expense,” Takagi told the Lower House Budget Committee.

He said the incident arose because people in charge of his bookkeeping mistakenly recorded his personal spending in the political fund reports, and that this will not be repeated.

According to the fund reports, Takagi’s fund management body and the local LDP chapter he headed spent ¥160,000 between 2011 and 2013 on “koden” (money given to bereaved families at funerals) for constituents, according to media reports.

Last week, Takagi confirmed the reports and asked that the political fund reports be corrected.

The Public Offices Election Law bans lawmakers, political fund management bodies and political party chapters from giving koden to lawmakers’ constituents. Lawmakers, however, cannot be punished when they attend funerals and hand over money there.

Takagi meanwhile also denied an allegation in a weekly gossip magazine that he was once suspected of stealing a young woman’s underwear in his hometown of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

“There was no such instance. I’m aware that such rumors emerge every time there is an election, but I don’t know why,” Takagi said in answer to a question by Democratic Party of Japan member Michiyoshi Yunoki.

According to Shukan Shincho magazine, Takagi broke into a house and stole the underwear of a woman in her 20s some 30 years ago. He was questioned by the police but was not arrested, according to the article.