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Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007

Account fudging undoes vice foreign minister


Staff writer

Dealing yet another blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Vice Foreign Minister Yukiko Sakamoto resigned Monday, admitting her political office falsified political funding records for fiscal 2004 and 2005.

News photo
Reporters flank Vice Foreign Minister Yukiko Sakamoto after she tenders her resignation Monday at the Prime Minister's Official Residence. KYODO PHOTO

At a news conference at the Foreign Ministry, Sakamoto said her office faked two receipts of expenses for political meetings, which she admitted did not actually take place.

Copies of the receipts, worth ¥87,537 and ¥83,508, were used five times in total for separate fictitious expense entries in her political funding reports for the two years.

Sakamoto said she has also found two more "mistakes" of double-reporting of campaign expenses by attaching a couple of the same receipts twice — worth ¥155,400 and ¥86,625 — in fiscal 2004 and 2005.

"Reporting political funds by using falsified receipts is totally impermissible. I deeply apologize," Sakamoto said.

"I also found new mistakes for double-entries (of the two receipts) in campaign advertising expenses. I apologize for many inappropriate" aspects in the funding reports, she said.

On Saturday, Sakamoto held a hastily arranged news conference and admitted the two receipts for the political meetings were used five times in her reports, but she said she had not confirmed yet if those meetings actually took place.

Her resignation, together with the departure of farm minister Takehiko Endo over the misuse of farm subsidies, came only a week after Abe reshuffled his Cabinet and appointed the two of them.

One of Abe's priorities in forming the new Cabinet was to offer a clean slate amid all the recent scandals.

Sakamoto, an Upper House member in the Liberal Democratic Party elected from Shizuoka Prefecture, is a former senior official at the health ministry.

Tamazawa to quit LDP Kyodo News Former farm minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa of the Liberal Democratic Party said Monday he has notified the LDP of his intention to leave the party to take responsibility for an alleged accounting irregularity involving an LDP chapter he has led.

Tamazawa, a 69-year-old House of Representatives member, made the announcement at a news conference after it was revealed last week that the LDP chapter in the No. 4 district in Iwate Prefecture allegedly inflated political expenditures by repeatedly writing down numbers from the same receipts in its political funding reports.

The announcement came after Vice Foreign Minister Yukiko Sakamoto stepped down from her post earlier in the day amid a similar political money scandal involving a regional LDP chapter.

Amid the series of accounting scandals, LDP Secretary General Taro Aso and other LDP executives had decided to urge Tamazawa to leave the party so it can ensure consistency over its handling of the scandals, LDP sources said.

By having him leave the party at an early stage, the LDP apparently aims to highlight its determination to tackle "money politics" scandals.



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