National

Shizuoka politician apologizes for making ¥8.8 million selling pricey virus masks

Kyodo

A Shizuoka Prefectural Assembly member apologized Monday for having sold thousands of face masks on internet auction sites as concerns grew over panic-buying and chronic shortages of the products amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Hiroyuki Morota, a 53-year-old independent lawmaker, admitted he had auctioned off face masks 89 times on web sites since Feb. 4 and had sales totaling ¥8.88 million.

“I apologize for bringing about displeasure to everyone,” he said at a news conference. “I bear moral responsibility and I feel sorry for having lacked consideration as a prefectural assemblyman.”

He said he would consult with related divisions of the prefectural government to use the money from the sales for measures to combat the outbreak, but added that he does not intend to resign.

Morota said he had auctioned several boxes of 2,000 masks each on auction sites and that the masks had sold between ¥30,000 and ¥170,000 per set or a few sets.

He said the masks had been in stock for a few years at a trading company he runs. The firm, which imports items from China and sells them online, purchased them in bulk during the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) but had surplus stock, according to Morota.

“I exhibited what had been stocked and they were not resales,” he said, claiming that he did not profiteer.

He also noted that while the masks had been up for auction, he had also donated some to a hospital in Sendai, a nursing school in Osaka and an elementary school in Saitama Prefecture in response to requests.

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