YOKOHAMA – Former economy minister Akira Amari said Monday he will resume political activities “step by step” after prosecutors decided last week not to charge him with graft over money-for-favors allegations.
“I deeply apologize to the people for causing tremendous nuisance and worries,” the veteran lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said at a news conference in his electoral district in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Amari, who was known as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-hand man in the Cabinet as minister of economic and fiscal policy, had stopped attending parliamentary meetings on medical grounds since he resigned from his Cabinet post over the allegations in late January.
“To prevent a similar problem from happening, I asked a lawyer to start investigating again to grasp the facts” surrounding the alleged graft, he said.
Amari, 66, said his doctor recommended that he resume political activities, and that he intends to visit his supporters to apologize to them.
The Lower House member said he intends to explain the matter in the Diet, saying he “will definitely fulfill” this promise by consulting with his party and his lawyer.
In mid-February, Amari submitted to a parliamentary committee a doctor’s diagnosis saying he needed one month of treatment at home for a sleep disorder.
Asked if he took sick leave to avoid being grilled by opposition lawmakers over the money-for-favors allegations, Amari deflected the question by asking, “Was I being misunderstood that way?”
The Diet ended its regular session last Wednesday.
In January, the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported that Amari and his secretaries were suspected of receiving money from a construction company in Chiba Prefecture in return for doing the firm a favor.
The report claimed the lawmaker and his aides helped the firm settle a dispute with the Urban Renaissance Agency, a government-backed housing development entity, over compensation issues related to a road project.
Amari admitted to receiving a total of ¥1 million from the company and resigned from his Cabinet post on Jan. 28.
A citizens’ group subsequently filed criminal complaints against Amari and the two men who had been his secretaries cited in the report. Last Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors decided not to charge them with graft due to lack of sufficient evidence warranting prosecution.
Amari ended Monday’s news conference after roughly 15 minutes. He declined to answer questions about his former secretaries before quickly getting into a car.