Amari Economy Minister Scandal: Resigns Over Scandal

Published: January 28, 2016

Amari Economy Minister Scandal: Resigns Over Scandal, A chief architect of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to resuscitate Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, resigned on Thursday after reports by a magazine that he had accepted money from the head of a construction company in exchange for political favors.

Akira Amari, the minister for economic revitalization, announced his resignation after markets closed in Japan. It was both a surprise and an embarrassing setback for Mr. Abe, who has used monetary easing by the Bank of Japan and other economic measures – a package known as Abenomics – to reverse the deflation and lackluster economic growth that have beleaguered the country for much of the past quarter-century.

“I feel responsible for appointing him, and I apologize to the Japanese people for this matter,” Mr. Abe said after Mr. Amari’s resignation.

Mr. Abe called the economy his “top priority,” and he immediately appointed to the post Nobuteru Ishihara, a former environment minister and the secretary general of Mr. Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, who have been in power throughout most of Japan’s postwar history.

Mr. Amari had been expected to travel to New Zealand next week for a signing ceremony for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr. Abe, while crediting Mr. Amari for his work on the trade accord, said the resignation would not affect the deal, as its provisions were “already basically agreed.”

The scandal that led to Mr. Amari’s downfall unfolded quickly.

The magazine Shukan Bunshun reported last week that an construction company had given Mr. Amari and his aides cash and gifts totaling 12 million yen, or about $100,000. The funds were not fully reported in public records, as required, the magazine said. The company was involved in a dispute with a semipublic housing agency over a public works contract, and it was seeking Mr. Amari’s help in resolving it, according to the magazine.

After the reports, Mr. Amari insisted at a news conference last Friday that he had not “broken any laws,” and he pledged to answer more questions after “confirming my memories.”

But a follow-up piece in the magazine on Thursday quoted a company official, Takeshi Isshiki, as saying that Mr. Amari had twice pocketed envelopes containing ¥500,000 in cash – at his ministerial office in Tokyo in November 2013 and at his office in Kanagawa Prefecture in February 2014. It claimed that further unrecorded payments were made, for a total of tens of millions of yen.

The magazine also reported salacious details concerning two aides to Mr. Amari. According to the magazine, Mr. Isshiki accompanied them to bars and nightclubs in the Ginza area of Tokyo, where he covered the expenses. One aide took ¥3 million and used it for personal purposes, according to a report disclosed during Mr. Amari’s news conference on Thursday.


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