• Kyodo


Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso violated the ministers’ guidelines recommending against the purchase or sale of golf club memberships while in office, a parliamentary report showed Monday.

An official at Aso’s office said the deputy prime minister “should have refrained from” buying a membership last year and apologized for his breaching of the rules. But it also declined to disclose any details, such as how much he paid for it.

According to the data and the official, Aso bought a membership at the Fukuoka Country Club last year from an acquaintance, but not for investment reasons.

The ministerial guidelines introduced in 2001 apply to ministers, vice ministers and parliamentary vice ministers but stipulate no punishment for violators.

Lawmakers are asked to refrain from profiting from the purchase or sale of golf club memberships while in ministerial positions.

The guidelines also state that ministers should not be wined and dined by people and groups linked to their portfolios, double as executives at commercial enterprises, and exercise self-restraint in stock and real estate purchases.

Aso is now in the process of returning the membership and will not profit from the sale, according to the official.

Aso has been doubling as deputy prime minister and finance minister since December 2012, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party came back to power. He became prime minister in September 2008 and lasted nearly a year.

Yoshiaki Kobayashi, a political science professor at Keio University, said although the purchase “cannot be said to be malicious, as he did not gain any profit, it is a problem that the No. 2 in (Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s) administration violated the guidelines.”

In a section on Diet members’ incomes, the same report showed that national lawmakers earned an average of ¥24.12 million last year, up 6.3 percent from 2015, due partly to an increase in compensation.

The top earner was Upper House member Keizo Takemi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who reported an income of ¥471.57 million, up from ¥30.18 million the previous year, after selling his for-rent condominium in an upscale residential area of Tokyo.

The second-biggest earner was Lower House politician Tsuneo Akaeda of the LDP, who made ¥242.22 million, followed by his LDP colleague, Akira Sato, with ¥137.30 million.

The incomes of three top earners rose by more than ¥100 million from the previous year after being buoyed by property sales.

Lower House members averaged ¥24.01 million and Upper House members averaged ¥24.38 million.

The rise in Diet lawmakers’ average income in 2016 followed the first fall in four years in 2015.

Among party leaders, the Liberal Party’s Ichiro Ozawa ranked first with ¥44.71 million in income, followed by Abe, head of the LDP, with ¥38.55 million. Abe’s income included his pay as both lawmaker and prime minister.

Women accounted for 76 of the 661 lawmakers who disclosed their incomes.

Lower House politician Tomoko Abe of the Democratic Party led all women with ¥30.60 million and was ranked 49th overall.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, also from the LDP, was the top female earner in 2015 but fell to second place last year with income of ¥29.3 million.

Upper House member Miki Watanabe of the LDP, the founder of izakaya (pub) chain Watami Co., fell to 19th in 2016 with ¥51.3 million after leading in 2014 and 2015.

By party affiliation, members of the Liberal Party had the highest incomes on average at ¥28.67 million, followed by the LDP at ¥25.85 million and Nippon Ishin no Kai at ¥24.54 million.

The Democratic Party placed fifth among the eight parties in the Diet, reporting an average of ¥21.36 million in income.

The data covered 468 Lower House members and 193 Upper House members who held seats in 2016.

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