• Jiji, Kyodo

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NTT Corp. President Jun Sawada, at a parliamentary meeting on Monday, denied that the company had asked lawmakers in senior communications ministry posts for favors through wining and dining them.

“There have been no conversations for making requests related to our business or receiving favors,” Sawada told the House of Councilors’ Budget Committee.

Former communications ministers Seiko Noda and Sanae Takaichi, both lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, are among those who have had dinner with Sawada.

Over the wining and dining scandal, “we deeply apologize for causing so much anxiety and inconvenience,” the NTT chief said.

Sawada said that the company tries to make occasions to hold talks with both ruling and opposition lawmakers on the future of society and general international affairs. He denied that the company routinely entertained senior ministry officials.

The NTT president, who joined the parliamentary meeting as an unsworn witness, declined to answer a question about whether company officials have had dinner with the prime minister or incumbent communications minister Ryota Takeda.

Also attending the Upper House committee meeting as an unsworn witness, Tohokushinsha Film Corp. President Shinya Nakajima offered a heartfelt apology for a similar scandal involving the satellite broadcast firm.

Tohokushinsha officials including the prime minister’s eldest son, Seigo Suga, had treated senior bureaucrats at the ministry to dinners.

Regarding the company’s violation of foreign capital rules under the broadcasting law, Nakajima said the company was not aware of the violation when it applied for a satellite broadcast license in October 2016.

The Tohokushinsha head said that after a company official recognized in August 2017 that the company may have violated the law, the company made a report to the communications ministry.

But Hiroshi Yoshida, director-general of the ministry’s Information and Communications Bureau, told the parliamentary meeting that the ministry official in charge of the matter has denied receiving such a report.

Nakajima also said the prime minister’s eldest son was told by a company executive to attend the dinners in question, while denying that he was employed to entertain ministry officials.

Nakajima added that Seigo Suga’s appointment to a managerial post was not linked to the fact that his father is the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Suga apologized for the fact that his eldest son was involved in the dinners, as well as that senior ministry officials were punished for breaching the ethics code for public servants by attending the dinners.

“I’ve instructed related ministers to enhance discipline (for government officials),” the prime minister said. He was responding to a question from Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary-general of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Fukuyama proposed setting up a special parliamentary committee to look into the scandal, stressing the need to investigate whether the issue had any impact on the administrative system.

Also on Monday, the communications ministry said that Yoshinori Akimoto, former director-general of the ministry’s Information and Communications Bureau, had been dined by Sawada.

The dinner could have violated an ethics code for government employees, the ministry said. Akimono was treated to the dinner at an NTT-related membership restaurant in November 2018, with the fee of ¥26,487 fully covered by the company, it said.

He was joined at the dinner by former Vice Minister Shigeki Suzuki, who was vice minister for policy coordination at the time, the ministry said.

Akimoto was the third senior ministry official treated to expensive dinners by NTT, following Yasuhiko Taniwaki, former vice minister for policy coordination, and Eiji Makiguchi, director-general of the Global Strategy Bureau.

Taniwaki was removed from the post over the scandal earlier this month.

The involvement of Akimoto was reported by NTT, not himself, the ministry said. Akimoto, Taniwaki and Makiguchi have reported that they had also had dinners with businesses other than NTT.

The ministry will expand the scope of its investigation into the wining and dining scandal to look into whether 144 former and current senior officials, including vice ministers, were treated to expensive dinners by NTT.

The probe will also examine whether these officials had dinners with businesses other than NTT. The investigation will take a lot of time, a ministry official said.

Communications minister Ryota Takeda told parliament that his ministry will set up an independent panel this week to investigate the impact of the scandal on its administrative functions.

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