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Digitalization minister Takuya Hirai was treated to expensive meals by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. on two occasions, the Digital Agency said Monday amid a deepening ethics scandal at the just-launched organization.

Hirai had previously said he paid his share for the meals, which took place last year on Oct. 2 and Dec. 4. But the agency said he only did so this June after learning that a weekly magazine was preparing to write a story on the wining and dining.

Last week, the agency said its No. 2 bureaucrat, Koichi Akaishi, was taking a pay cut as punishment for being treated to three meals worth ¥120,000 by NTT executives in violation of the ethics code for government employees.

The agency at the time declined to name the company that paid for the meals, but admitted Monday it was NTT and that Hirai had attended two of the three meals.

Hirai has already said he will voluntarily return a month’s salary over his involvement.

A subsidiary of NTT supplies software used by the Cabinet Secretariat, and the parent company issued a statement apologizing for its “insufficient recognition” of the ethics code, which forbids government employees from receiving favors from stakeholders.

The Shukan Bunshun magazine reported in June that NTT executives including CEO Jun Sawada had taken Hirai to an exclusive restaurant in Tokyo’s upscale Azabu district.

The scandal could hurt public trust in the agency, which was launched on Sept. 1 as part of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s drive for the government to implement digital technology more effectively.

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