The Democratic Party of Japan is demanding that economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari provide an explanation by Wednesday over allegations he received money in return for doing favors for a construction company.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on the other hand, said at a meeting Monday with senior members of the Liberal Democratic Party, “Mr. Amari himself said he will explain to the public by Thursday (about the matter).”
The embattled minister said at a news conference he has not heard about the request by the DPJ, adding, “I will hold a press conference by the end of this week” to give his account over the claims within a week.
The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported Thursday that Amari personally received ¥1 million in cash in two installments from a construction company. His secretaries received cash and were entertained at restaurants and bars at the company’s expense over the past three years, according to the magazine.
His possible resignation as minister could tarnish the prime minister ahead of the Upper House election slated for this summer.
Amari has a key role in forming the Abe Cabinet’s economic policies. He was Japan’s top negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact agreed on last October by Japan, the United States and 10 other countries.
The DPJ had earlier requested Amari’s explanation by Monday but changed its plan as it now seeks to grill him in the Diet.
Jun Azumi, the DPJ’s acting Diet affairs chief, indicated in a meeting with LDP Diet affairs head Tsutomu Sato that if Amari does not provide an explanation by Wednesday, the opposition party may boycott the Lower House Budget Committee.
“We will get ready for an all-out confrontation if (the LDP) tries to delay the disclosure of the investigation (into Amari) or hide the facts to prioritize the political schedule,” Azumi told reporters.
When Amari was about to begin a speech during last Friday’s plenary session of the Lower House, opposition members left in protest.
Azumi was reluctant to approve a plan suggested by Sato for Amari to attend a signing ceremony for the TPP in New Zealand on Feb. 4.
A DPJ task force to look into the matter surrounding Amari held its first meeting earlier Monday and agreed to keep pressing him for a clear explanation.
At the meeting, also attended by members of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), the lawmakers discussed with Nobuo Gohara, a lawyer and former prosecutor, the potential illegality of Amari’s actions based on the magazine article.
DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Edano said his party will continue to press Amari as well as Abe through parliamentary debate.
“The harder (Abe) tries to protect (Amari), the more chance he will share his fate,” Edano told reporters.
The magazine reported that the total cash and expenses Amari and his aides received from the company amounted to ¥12 million, but apparently not all of the payments were logged in the minister’s political funding report.
The company had asked Amari’s office for help settling a dispute with the Urban Renaissance Agency, a government-overseen developer, over compensation issues related to a road project, according to the magazine article.
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