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Friday, March 6, 2009

Three in Cabinet tied to Nishimatsu

Staff writer

Three members of the Cabinet, including Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai, decided Thursday to return money donated to them by two political groups linked to scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co., the government's top spokesman said.

Nikai, a Liberal Democratic Party member who heads a party faction, admitted the two Nishimatsu-linked organizations bought fundraising party tickets worth about ¥8.4 million from his political group, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

For lawmakers, selling party tickets to supporters is a normal way of raising funds.

According to Kawamura, Nikai denied any illegalities over the donation but decided to return the money to prevent suspicions from arising.

The money "was accurately processed in accordance with the Political Funds Control Law, but there should be no suspicion left in people's minds," Kawamura said. "(Nikai) said he wanted to return the money for ethical reasons."

In a written statement Nikai's faction said "we stand by the fact that there was no fault in the procedure — the two groups bought the tickets out of goodwill and a show of support."

The group, however, considered recent media reports and decided "to return the money as soon as possible from a moral viewpoint," Kawamura said.

Besides Nikai, Tokio Kano, senior vice minister of the transport ministry, and Shunichi Yamaguchi, special adviser to Prime Minister Taro Aso on regional revitalization, were also given financial contributions by the two groups.

The two political groups in question were headed by ex-Nishimatsu officials and donated money to various lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties.

Later Thursday, ex-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori also said he will return more than ¥3 million his support group received from Nishimatsu-linked groups in 2004 and 2005.

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The Japan Times

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