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Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012

Justice chief claims all mob ties cut

Tanaka stays put, says yakuza encounters in past were surprise


Staff writer

Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka admitted Friday that he acted as a matchmaker for a senior yakuza and also attended a party hosted by an underworld boss some 30 years ago, but has no plans to quit the Cabinet.

At a news conference Friday morning, Tanaka apologized for his past encounters with a major crime syndicate in Yokohama, but stressed he did not do any favors for its members and assured that he severed all ties with the group many years ago.

"I never used the yakuza group nor did I work for their convenience," Tanaka said. "It all happened about (three decades) ago, but I did cause misunderstanding and will therefore honestly reflect on my past. I will also ensure that no further (scandals) occur, and would like to continue fulfilling my duties" as justice minister.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura backed Tanaka's decision to remain in the post.

But Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe is preparing to pounce, suggesting the main opposition group may submit a censure motion against Tanaka that would easily be adopted in the Upper House, where the opposition holds a majority.

Opposition parties will also look to seize this opportunity to batter Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, since he was the one who appointed Tanaka in the Oct. 1 Cabinet reshuffle.

While confirming that he acted as a matchmaker for a yakuza boss as a favor to his father, who was an acquaintance, Tanaka insisted he only learned later about the groom's underworld involvement.

"If I had known at the time, I wouldn't have served as a matchmaker," Tanaka said. "I (later) told the groom he should cease his (criminal) activities. . . . As his matchmaker, I felt it was natural to hope that he would lead a decent life" from that point on.

The minister also acknowledged that he unwittingly attended a yakuza party about 30 years ago in Yokohama. According to the Shukan Shincho weekly magazine, which exposed Tanaka's former mob ties in its Thursday edition, the event was hosted by the boss of a major syndicate affiliated with Inagawa-kai.

Tanaka said Friday that when he arrived at the party, he realized immediately that it was a yakuza event and only stayed long enough to make a speech.

"I wouldn't have gone to the party if I had known it was related to a crime syndicate," he said. "I knew the instant I arrived because of the atmosphere . . . so I left quickly."

Tanaka, serving his sixth term as a Lower House member from Kanagawa Prefecture, was only appointed justice minister and state minister in charge of the abductee issue in last week's Cabinet reshuffle, but immediately came under fire for illegally accepting donations from a company operated by a Chinese national.

On Friday, Tanaka explained that his staff were still checking past political funds reports and said he would report the results once the inspection is completed.



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