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The wining-and-dining scandal surrounding the communications ministry continues to rumble on. At first it was all about bureaucrats’ lavish meals with execs from Tohokushinsha Film, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s eldest son, Seigo, with the film company picking most of the hefty tab.

The ministry said Friday it would revoke a permit for a satellite broadcasting business linked to Tohokushinsha, admitting that the ministry’s review of the firm’s application might not have been thorough enough.

The affair has since widened to include similar meals between bureaucrats and execs from telecoms giant NTT, which has set up a panel to look into the allegations. Yasuhiko Taniwaki, a top ministry official with close ties to Suga who admitted accepting meals, was demoted and will retire at the end of March. Former communications minister Seiko Noda, meanwhile, has denied reports she was wined and dined by NTT when she was in that job.

Tokyo Tonight! Japan's worst political ethics scandal since 1998 | HIKOSAEMON
Tokyo Tonight! Japan’s worst political ethics scandal since 1998 | HIKOSAEMON

The recent revelations have revived concerns about the ethics of bureaucrats — concerns that hit fever-pitch in 1998 with revelations that Finance Ministry officials had been treated to trips to eateries where the waitresses wore no panties (known as no pan shabu-shabu) by banks seeking favors.

The shock of that and other scandals led to the formulation of the National Public Service Ethics Code, which provides general instructions about what is allowed or not between “interested parties.” As Eric Johnston points out in a Q&A, the code has some interesting caveats, particularly related to golf.

Meanwhile, a citizens’ panel has rejected prosecutors’ decision not to indict former trade minister Isshu Sugawara over a money and gift scandal. Another panel reached a similar decision in the case of ex-top prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa, who was revealed to have gambled illegally with reporters. He will now be slapped with a fine of up to ¥1 million, sources say.

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