• Kyodo

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Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. said Monday its president and three other executives will take a pay cut for three months after the telecom giant was found to have paid for dinners for communications ministry officials, costing up to ¥60,480 ($553) per person, on 29 occasions.

In its report, NTT’s investigation panel said that such meetings had resulted in the officials involved violating the code of ethics for public servants, and that the group “cannot escape criticism.” However, the panel determined that the group had not sought favors from the ministry during the dinners.

NTT President Jun Sawada will take a pay cut of 40% for three months from July, while Vice President Akira Shimada will see a 20% cut for the same period. The two are among 16 executives within the NTT group to be reprimanded over the incidents.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has come under fire for a total of 78 illegal incidents in which senior officials were wined and dined by executives of companies the ministry supervises, such as satellite broadcaster Tohokushinsha Film Corp.

The executives included Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s eldest son. Most of the incidents concerned the broadcaster and the NTT group, according to the ministry.

The practice of meeting over dinner without equally splitting the bill has exposed the closeness of ties between the ministry and companies under its supervision since the incidents came to light earlier this year.

Four politicians who have held key posts at the communications ministry — such as minister, senior vice minister and parliamentary vice minister — attended such meals on a total of five occasions, the report said, describing the incidents as potentially having “raised doubts among the public” about fairness.

Two lawmakers from Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party who have served as communications minister — Seiko Noda, now acting secretary-general of the ruling party, and Lower House member Sanae Takaichi — have admitted they dined with officials from the NTT group.

The NTT group includes NTT Docomo Inc., one of Japan’s major mobile phone carriers that has decided to lower data usage fees in the face of growing pressure from Suga, who considers mobile services fees in Japan to be higher than those in other developed countries.

The NTT group probe covered a nearly five-year period between April 2016 and March 2021, looking into internal documents and conducting interviews.

The panel found no evidence that government decisions were “distorted” in relation to NTT’s plan, announced in September last year, to make the mobile carrier unit a wholly owned subsidiary, or its lowering of mobile fees. The government is a major shareholder in NTT.

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