Internal affairs minister Seiko Noda said Tuesday she will return part of her salary to take responsibility for leaking information she received from another government agency to reporters.
“I undermined trust in the government,” Noda said.
The leaked information is said to pertain to a disclosure request, filed by the Asahi Shimbun daily with the Financial Services Agency, regarding records of a meeting involving her secretary.
Noda, the minister responsible for overseeing the law on access to information held by administrative organizations, said she will forfeit the roughly ¥1.6 million she has received for being a Cabinet member, a forfeit she called “a politician’s lesson” to herself. She was appointed to the Cabinet last August.
According to sources close to the matter, the FSA notified internal affairs ministry officials in May that a request had been filed with the agency for the disclosure of records of the meeting between Noda’s secretary and an agency official in January.
The secretary had accompanied an official from a virtual currency company into the meeting at the FSA. The company had been under investigation by the financial watchdog for operating without a license.
The FSA told ministry officials that the disclosure request was made by the Asahi.
Noda later admitted she had acted carelessly in mentioning the request to reporters.
The case could dent her hopes of mounting a challenge against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in the ruling party’s September leadership election.
“I’m working steadily” in order to run in the election, the Lower House lawmaker — elected for nine consecutive terms — said at a news conference.
In a related move on Tuesday, the FSA reprimanded four officials over their involvement in leaking information to internal affairs ministry officials.
Finance Minister Taro Aso admitted the same day that he had confirmed through a probe into the case that the FSA had acted inappropriately in light of the information disclosure law.
Critics say leaks on information disclosure requests risk weakening their role as a check on power.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Noda has taken home ¥110,000 per month for her ministerial role, which together with two bonuses in December and June comes to a total of ¥1.6 million.