The government vowed Thursday to conduct a swift and thorough investigation after Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) said its president dined with senior communications ministry officials mired in an ethics scandal involving Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s eldest son.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said officials including Yasuhiko Taniwaki, vice minister for policy coordination at the ministry, had admitted to dining with NTT President Jun Sawada as was reported online by weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun on Wednesday.
“In light of the situation, we expect the communications ministry will swiftly, accurately and thoroughly investigate what happened,” Kato said at a regular news conference.
He said the ministry had notified the National Public Service Ethics Board of the launch of its probe as of Wednesday.
The magazine report said Taniwaki, Makiko Yamada — then vice minister for policy coordination at the ministry — and another ministry official were treated to expensive meals by Sawada between 2018 and last year.
NTT, a technology and communications giant, is subject to the ministry’s supervision. The National Public Service Ethics Law prohibits central government officials from receiving favors from companies in sectors they regulate.
Meals expected to cost more than ¥10,000 ($93) must be declared beforehand.
Following the report, Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), urged his ruling party counterpart to report on the results of the communication ministry’s probe as soon as possible. The wining and dining reported by the magazine was “beyond common sense,” he said.
Yamada resigned Monday as Suga’s press secretary after drawing fire for a lavish dinner with executives of Tohokushinsha Film Corp. including Seigo Suga, the prime minister’s eldest son. The company provides broadcasting services.
Taniwaki was reprimanded with a salary cut of 20% for three months after a ministry probe found he had been among officials treated to dinners by Tohokushinsha executives.
According to the magazine report, Sawada and another NTT executive dined with Yamada and ministry official Eiji Makiguchi in June last year.
Sawada footed most of the nearly ¥200,000 dinner bill and the two officials each paid around ¥10,000.
The NTT president and Taniwaki also dined in September 2018, with that meal costing around ¥90,000, the magazine reported.
Taniwaki had dinner with former executives of NTT and one of its group companies the same month and in July last year, with the cost of the three meals totaling more than ¥170,000, according to Shukan Bunshun. Taniwaki did not submit a report in advance.
He had denied being treated to expensive meals by representatives of companies in the communications sector other than Tohokushinsha when he was questioned in parliament over the scandal.
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