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Friday, Oct. 12, 2012
New justice minister allegedly had yakuza ties
By MASAMI ITO
Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka was stung by a fresh scandal Thursday as the Shukan Shincho weekly magazine reported that he used to have close ties to a major yakuza group in Yokohama.
The 74-year-old Tanaka is already in hot water for accepting illegal donations from a foreign company and the opposition is likely to pounce over his alleged underworld connections. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who just promoted Tanaka to the Cabinet in last week's reshuffle, is also in the opposition's sights.
According to Shukan Shincho, Tanaka made an appearance and gave a speech at a party hosted by the boss of a major organized crime group affiliated with the Inagawa-kai syndicate, and also acted as a matchmaker for one of its executive members about 30 years ago in Yokohama.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura refused direct comment on the case Thursday morning and also declined to say whether Noda intends to sack Tanaka, as the facts have yet to be confirmed. But he urged Tanaka to explain himself nonetheless.
"In general, politicians are responsible for deciding what sort of relationships or political activities are appropriate," Fujimura said. "Politicians must ensure they do not face criticism for illegal or irresponsible (activities) and, if necessary, (the accused party) has the responsibility of explaining their actions."
Shukan Shincho quotes Tanaka as admitting to coming into contact with yakuza members, but saying he only agreed to act as a matchmaker to one of them as a favor to the groom's father, who was an acquaintance of his. However, Tanaka stressed that he only found out about the groom's mob ties at a later date.
"I had no idea (the groom belonged to a crime syndicate). I did it as a favor for his father," Tanaka is quoted as saying by the magazine. "I only found out later. (I told the groom) that he shouldn't cause any trouble for others . . . and he said he would put an end" to his criminal activities.
Just days after being handed his first ministerial portfolio, Tanaka was found to have received ¥420,000 from a company operated by a Chinese national over a four-year period starting in 2006, in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.
The law bans politicians from receiving donations from foreign individuals or groups. Tanaka said he returned all of the money and last week announced his intention to continue as justice minister.