Embattled Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said Friday his expense reports will from now on undergo scrutiny by third-party lawyers.
He is under fire for allegedly charging the cost of his five-star travel accommodations and artwork purchases to taxpayers.
“I am now waiting for responses from several lawyers versed in the public funds law and will await their strict evaluation,” Masuzoe told reporters at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward.
He said he will try to regain the trust of Tokyo residents.
“I will humbly accept all opinions and criticism,” he said, adding that he does not plan to resign.
Masuzoe said whatever the lawyers find will be disclosed, adding that they will also scrutinize the funds reports of a political group he heads.
He said the lawyers have no business ties to his office.
Last week, Masuzoe admitted using about ¥450,000 in political funds for private purposes, mainly hotel stays and wining and dining at high-end restaurants.
But then media outlets began questioning a slew of other suspicious expenses, such art purchases from online auctions.
Some were purchased on Yahoo Auctions under the account name ymasuzoe.
On Friday, Masuzoe acknowledged using political funds to purchase oil paintings and other “research materials” to the tune of more than ¥9 million.
He admitted to having used the ymasuzoe account, but said that he deleted it after an unknown person used it illegally.
Since first acknowledging funds misuse at a news conference last week, Masuzoe’s office has been deluged with phone calls and letters demanding his resignation.
“I humbly accept criticism,” Masuzoe said Friday. “Over the past week I have received more criticism and have concluded that the reports need to be verified under the strict eye of experts,” he said. “I will humbly accept the findings.”
The outside experts are also expected to examine Masuzoe’s frequent use of an office limousine to travel to a second home he owns in Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, and his high spending during overseas trips, during which he rang up bills at luxury hotels.
During the news conference on Friday, he refused to answer whether he considers his conduct proper for a politician, saying he will respond to that question after the allegations are examined properly.
“First of all we need to confirm the facts,” Masuzoe said.
“At this point I would like to respond to the accusations and regain trust through my work. I will try harder so that my conduct does not spawn such criticism in the future.”
Meanwhile, a political funds ombudsman team on Thursday filed an accusation against Masuzoe with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The group is co-headed by Hiroshi Kamiwaki, professor of law at Kobe Gakuin University.
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