Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped graft charges against former economy minister Akira Amari and his two former secretaries over alleged graft, citing insufficient evidence.
Amari has been facing allegations that he received money in return for doing favors for a construction company, which led him to resign as economic and fiscal policy minister in January.
He had reportedly denied helping the company when prosecutors spoke with him, sources said earlier.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office’s special investigative arm had been probing the case after criminal complaints were filed by a group of lawyers and a citizens’ group.
Amari, who was the point man for implementing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, resigned from his Cabinet post shortly after a weekly magazine reported in January that he personally received ¥1 million in cash from Satsuma Kogyo and that his secretaries received cash and were wined and dined at the company’s expense.
The weekly also said Amari and his secretaries may have violated the Political Funds Control Law and a law that prohibits lawmakers and public officials from profiting from exerting their influence.
When he announced his resignation in January, Amari admitted that one of his government-paid secretaries received ¥5 million in 2013 from the company. At the time, the company was having difficulties with the Urban Renaissance Agency, a government-affiliated developer better known as UR, over a housing development project.
Amari, a veteran ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, also admitted he had received a total of ¥1 million in cash from the company on two occasions in 2013 and 2014.
Amari’s secretaries later had attended several meetings with UR officials where they apparently acted as intermediaries to resolve the matter in favor of the construction company.
Takeshi Isshiki, 62, who was in charge of the company’s general affairs, told Kyodo News earlier that he gave Amari and his aides more than ¥14 million in total as “gratuities and expenses for mediation to gain an advantage in compensation talks with the UR.”
The prosecutors have searched the company and a regional branch of UR, and have questioned one of the two secretaries and Isshiki.