• Kyodo, Reuters

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A top Japanese prosecutor thought to be favored by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office intends to step down after a magazine report that he played mahjong for money and did so despite Japan’s state of emergency over the new coronavirus, a judicial source said Thursday.

Hiromu Kurokawa, chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, played mahjong for money with two reporters of a newspaper and an employee of a different newspaper on May 1 and May 13 in the midst of a nationwide state of emergency, according to a Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine report.

His resignation is a fresh setback for Abe, who has ridden out a series of money and favoritism scandals since his return to power in late 2012.

Seen as being close to Abe, Kurokawa has also been at the center of public outcry over the government push to raise the retirement age for prosecutors. Critics of the proposal have said it could undermine judicial independence and eventually the separation of powers, a pillar of modern democracy.

Kurokawa was allowed to stay at his post this year despite hitting retirement age of 63.

This week during the current Diet session, Abe’s government withdrew its controversial attempt to raise the retirement age.

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