Japan’s economy minister Akira Amari “searched his memory” and doesn’t recall putting an envelope of cash in his pocket.
Nevertheless, the 66-year-old resigned on Thursday amid reports he accepted a $100,000 bribe from a construction company in exchange for political favors.
“I haven’t broken any laws,” Amari said last Friday, before promising to answer further questions once he had a chance to “conform his memories.”
As it turns out, Amari does recall receiving gifts from the company but those gifts were accepted as a “political donation.” No mafia-style cash envelopes were exchanged, he insists. “Putting money in my suit pocket in front of a visitor would be lacking dignity as a human being,” he said.
But even as the minister maintained his innocence, he decided to fall on his sword for the sake of Japan's Quixote-esque fight against deflation. “We need to pass legislation through Parliament for steps to beat deflation and create a strong economy as soon as possible,” he said on Thursday. “Anything that hampers this must be eliminated, and I’m no exception.”
As Reuters notes, “Amari is a close ally of the prime minister, is a core member of his policy team, and led Japan's negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade bloc.”
"This is definitely not good news for Abe and it's going to make it harder to sell the TPP," Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus told Reuters. "Corruption is just not something that goes down well with voters [and] it's going to be a bit of a rough road."
Yes, "a bit of a rough road," or as BBC's Mariko Oi puts it, "the biggest scandal the Abe administration has faced" thus far.
Amari was the architect of Abenomics and "his resignation will probably raise even more questions over Abe's economic policies," Oi continues.
As for the "political donations," Amari says the confusion arose because the cash was mishandled by his "secretaries" who allegedly spent 3 million yen of the illicit funds.
"I decided to resign my cabinet position today in consideration of my responsibility to oversee my secretary as a national lawmaker, my duty as a minister, and my pride as a politician," a tearful Amari declared.
As Bloomberg reports, Amari is "the most influential minister to step down since Abe took office in December 2012."
“The resignation of one of the leading members in the Abe cabinet hurts the policy implementation capacity of Abenomics," Minori Uchida, head of global markets research at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said, earlier today.
Right. Of course the other thing that "hurts the policy implementation capacity of Abenomics" is that Abenomics simply hasn't worked to pull the country out of deflation. Amari was one of three officials (Abe and BoJ governor Kuroda being the other two) who delivered near daily soundbites promising that the government would hit its 2% inflation target even if it killed them.
To whatever extent the market doubted the viability of Abenomics, Amari's exit will only make the situation worse according to pretty much every commentator who's weighed in thus far.
Nobuteru Ishihara, a former minister and secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, will step in as economy minister.
In the end, we suppose it says something about Abe's cabinet that they can't even seem to do graft right. $100,000 isn't exactly a large sum when it comes to bribes and illicit kickbacks. Just ask a politician in Brazil.
We close with a quote from the disgraced minister, who says he risked his own life tilting at deflationary windmills.
"I worked without sleep or rest. After Prime Minister Abe put my self at the helm of Abenomics, I put my life on the line for my national duty over the past three years."
* * *
Full article from Shukan Bunshun on the alleged bribes
And in public secretary Amari Akira TPP Minister (66), that there is a suspicion of mediation gain punishment law violations and Political Funds Control Law it found an interview of Shukan Bunshun.Depending on the coverage Affairs personnel of Shukan Bunshun of construction company in Chiba Prefecture, it was testimony to exchange money on the basis of the notes and recordings.
According to this man, Tour of the compensation of road construction Urban Renaissance Agency (UR) is doing, and request a man of influence in the Amari office. Over the past three years, Minister Amari and local Yamato office director, shaking Kenichi (public first secretary) and continued funding and entertainment Suzuki RyoMakoto policy secretary, only those total that remains is evidence 12 million yen and that up to.?
Qing Island director you have set a meeting was responded that they "do not was brought in the form of donations" to the coverage of Shukan Bunshun. However, there is no description in Amari's political fund income and expenditure report.?The November 14, 2013, and met with the Minister of room to Amari minister. Along with Toraya of jelly that entered the box of paulownia, the ¥ 500,000 cash was placed in an envelope that was me, "This is a thank-you."
Nobuo Mr. Gohara of attorney in the original Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office prosecutor, a series of financial interactions Political Funds Control Law violation was pointed out that there is a suspicion of mediation gain punishment law.
TPP is in the refrain of the Diet approval, likely to raise the voices questioning the eligibility of Amari minister.
* * *