Japan's Finance Ministry names new leadership, ending monthslong vacuum following scandals


The Finance Ministry on Friday named its new top bureaucrat and tax collecting chief, resolving a leadership vacuum that had dragged on for months after a string of resignations over scandals.

Shigeaki Okamoto, 57, was promoted to vice finance minister, a position that had been left vacant after Junichi Fukuda stepped down in April over allegations that he sexually harassed a female TV reporter. Okamoto was previously head of the ministry’s Budget Bureau.

Takeshi Fujii, 55, the No. 2 ranking official in the National Tax Agency, was named the agency’s commissioner, replacing Nobuhisa Sagawa. Sagawa resigned in March over his connection with a dubious public land sale to Moritomo Gakuen, a school operator with ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie.

“We have to reflect on the string of issues that we have had and work to regain public trust and rebuild,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told a news conference in reference to the personnel changes, which were approved by the Cabinet on Friday.

Aso said the ministry will set up a new panel chaired by Okamoto to try to improve governance, and it will also welcome Reiko Akiike, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, as an adviser.

There had been speculation that Okamoto would not be given the promotion so soon because he had been reprimanded over the tampering of formal records of the Moritomo deal by ministry officials, but Aso said this was not a problem because he had not been directly involved.

Masatsugu Asakawa, 60, vice minister of finance for international affairs, had at one point been considered for the top role but will remain the country’s top currency diplomat for a fourth year.

Financial Bureau chief Mitsuru Ota, 58, will replace Okamoto as the head of the powerful Budget Bureau, which holds sway over government spending.

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