• Kyodo

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Koya Nishikawa, a special adviser to the Cabinet, has resigned, the government said Tuesday, following revelations that he went on a boating trip hosted by the former head of a major egg farm in western Japan, who was involved in a separate bribery scandal.

Nishikawa, former farm minister, is believed to have also received several million yen from the same farm, according to people familiar with the matter, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has seen his Cabinet’s support ratings plummet amid criticism over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nishikawa began serving as an adviser to Akita Foods Co. in Hiroshima Prefecture in January 2018, and Tokyo prosecutors are believed to be investigating whether accepting the money from the company since 2018 created a conflict with his job as special adviser to the Cabinet. The money was not included in his political funds reports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that Nishikawa had voiced his desire to resign as special adviser to the Cabinet for “personal reasons,” an announcement that followed revelations he went on the boating trip hosted by the then-chief executive of Akita Foods.

The former head of Akita Foods has said he hosted Nishikawa and two former senior officials from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry on an outing on the company yacht in July.

The three also stayed at a luxury hotel paid for by Akita Foods, though the former company head had said that once the hotel sends the bill, his company would ask them to reimburse the cost.

Nishikawa served as farm minister from September 2014 to February 2015, a brief stint that ended after he resigned to take responsibility for a political funds scandal involving the local branch of the Liberal Democratic Party that he headed.

He lost his seat in the House of Representatives in October 2017 and was named special adviser to the Cabinet by Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, the following month. Suga retained him upon taking office in September this year.

He denies any wrongdoing and said he chose to step down to avoid “causing trouble” to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the government, according to other sources.

The former head of Akita Foods, who stepped down in August, is also in the spotlight for allegedly paying a total of ¥5 million in bribes between October 2018 and September 2019 to Takamori Yoshikawa, the farm minister at the time.

Tokyo prosecutors are believed to be investigating attempts by the former head of Akita Foods to lobby for laxer international standards for animal welfare and an expansion of a government program that covers farmers’ losses when egg prices fall sharply.

Yoshikawa, who remains a Lower House member, has denied receiving the cash, though he has resigned from all senior LDP posts.

Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday became more vocal in their criticism of the two former farm ministers’ dealings with Akita Foods.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said at a news conference that both Nishikawa and Yoshikawa should “give an explanation for these allegations.”

Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, demanded that all involved parties appear in the Diet to give testimony.

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