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Japanese minister to step down over political fund scandal

Japanese minister to step down over political fund scandal

A Japanese Cabinet minister said Wednesday he would resign over a political funds scandal, the latest blow to the embattled government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Administrative Reform Minister Genichiro Sata told a news conference he would step down after admitting that a support group had engaged in fraudulent accounting. His departure marked the second high-profile government resignation in a week.
"I cannot deny that inappropriate accounting methods were taken," Sata told reporters. "I apologize for causing mistrust and confusion among the public."
Abe has approved his resignation, Sata said. The 54-year-old member of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party was expected to retain his seat in parliament's lower house.
The scandal broke earlier this week when local media reported that a support group for Sata told the state it spent 78 million yen (US$656,000; euro497,000) in past office maintenance expenses, even though the office did not exist.
Sata acknowledged Wednesday that some of the group's expenses had been spent by other organizations. He had earlier denied any knowledge of fraudulent accounting, saying he was surprised by the allegations.
"The resignation does not make all well. Prime Minister Abe must also take responsibility," said Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, the country's largest opposition party. "There must be a full investigation."
"I feel responsible as the one that appointed," Abe told reporters late Wednesday. "The situation is very regrettable, but (the resignation) could not be helped."
Top government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said the government took the allegations seriously and would work to ensure ministers followed proper accounting practices.
Sata's resignation is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Abe that have sent his approval ratings plunging since he took office in September. Recent media polls have shown that support for Abe's government has fallen to about 50 percent from almost 70 percent three months ago.
On Thursday, the head the government's tax panel, Masaaki Homma, resigned amid an outcry over his use of a plush government apartment to house his mistress. Homma had been hand-picked by Abe to spearhead a push for tax reform.
Abe has also taken blows over his decision to reinstate lawmakers expelled from the LDP last year over their opposition to a key government reform initiative. The return of the 11 lawmakers _ ousted from the party for refusing to back then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's plan to privatize the postal service _ hurt Abe's standing with the public, which supported the reforms.
A separate scandal involving a series of staged "town meetings," in which government officials posed as members of the public or paid regular citizens to ask questions, triggered opposition parties to submit a no-confidence motion against Abe earlier this month.
The motion was voted down by the LDP-dominated lower house of parliament.
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Associated Press writer Kozo Mizoguchi contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-11 14:13 GMT+08:00