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The farm ministry’s top bureaucrat attended a dinner meeting with a former egg production company head who has been indicted on bribery charges, farm minister Kotaro Nogami revealed at a news conference Tuesday.

Including the top bureaucrat, Masaaki Edamoto, vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, a total of seven senior ministry officials had two dinner meetings with Yoshiki Akita, former head of the company, Akita Foods, based in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Farm minister Kotaro Nogami speaks at a news conference at the ministry in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO
Farm minister Kotaro Nogami speaks at a news conference at the ministry in Tokyo on Tuesday. | KYODO

Edamoto was chief of the ministry’s Agricultural Production Bureau at the time. The seven also include the current chief of the bureau, Masakazu Mizuta, and the then director-general of the Livestock Industry Department.

Last week, Akita was indicted for allegedly bribing former farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa, who was also indicted for allegedly taking bribes.

According to the ministry, the officials did not cover the costs of the dinner meetings. They claim that they believed the dinner costs were to be shouldered by politicians who also participated in the dinner meetings.

Under the National Public Service Ethics Act, national government employees are prohibited from attending dinner meetings paid by interested parties, while they are allowed to dine with interested parties if the costs are covered by third parties.

The ministry is investigating who paid for the dinner meetings and is set to consider punishment for the officials if they are found to have violated the law.

The dinner meetings were held on Oct. 4, 2018, and Sept. 18, 2019, soon after Yoshikawa took office and after he left office, respectively.

Both meetings were attended by Akita, Yoshikawa and former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who is on trial for allegedly violating the public offices election law. The 2019 meeting was joined by former farm minister Koya Nishikawa.

According to the ministry, during the dinner meetings, the participants did not talk about policy topics. Some of the ministry officials were handed gifts after the meetings.

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