National

Finance Ministry acknowledges sexual harassment and cuts former bureaucrat's retirement pay

Kyodo

The Finance Ministry acknowledged Friday that its former top bureaucrat sexually harassed a female reporter, slapping him with a deduction equivalent to 20 percent on six months’ worth of wages.

The ministry plans to deduct the amount from former Administrative Vice Minister Junichi Fukuda’s full ¥53 million ($487,000) retirement benefits. He has yet to receive the payment.

“It’s very regrettable and (we) deeply apologize,” senior ministry official Koji Yano told a news conference.

The ministry will end its investigation into the allegation.

Fukuda, denied the sexual harassment allegations made by a weekly magazine during the ministry’s probe, though he confirmed that he had met her, ministry officials said.

When the Cabinet approved Fukuda’s resignation earlier this week, Finance Minister Taro Aso said the ministry’s priority is to gather facts to confirm the accuracy of sexual harassment claims made by a female reporter in the Shukan Shinsho weekly magazine.

Fukuda gave up his post last week, saying it had become difficult to perform his duties at a time when the ministry is mired in a number of controversies. He is planning to file a defamation lawsuit against the publisher of the magazine that first reported the story.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, Aso revealed that Fukuda has admitted that he met with a female reporter in person. “The biggest problem is that the woman felt offended,” he said, declining to comment further on whether Fukuda sexually harassed the reporter.

The magazine reported earlier this month that Fukuda had made sexually suggestive comments to female reporters. It later released an audio clip that is allegedly a recording of Fukuda asking a female reporter “Can I give you a kiss?” and “Can I give you a hug?”

In the face of Fukuda’s denial, TV Asahi said one of its female employees was the victim of the alleged sexual harassment by the bureaucrat, revealing she had handed the audio recording over to the magazine.

The sexual harassment allegations have become yet another headache for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, already shaken by multiple scandals that have caused a decline in public support for his administration.

The Finance Ministry has faced a barrage of criticism since acknowledging it doctored records pertaining to the heavily discounted sale of state-owned property to a school operator that had ties to Abe’s wife, Akie.

Aso himself has faced growing calls from opposition parties to resign for having picked Fukuda for the post. But he has said he has no intention of stepping down, adding that his priority is to uncover the truth and take measures to ensure wrongdoings do not reoccur.

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