Sabtu 18 Oct 2014 11:10 WIB

Japan trade minister to resign over funds scandal

Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi leaves the upper house of parliament in Tokyo September 29, 2014.
Foto: Reuters/Yuya Shino
Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi leaves the upper house of parliament in Tokyo September 29, 2014.

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, TOKYO - In a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan's newly appointed trade and industry minister plans to resign following reports that some of her support groups misused political funds, Japanese media said on Saturday.

Yuko Obuchi, the 40-year-old daughter of a former premier, told people close to Abe that she had planned to quit and would discuss the matter when Abe returned on Saturday afternoon from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy, the Nikkei newspaper said, without citing any sources for its report. "I am investigating (the funding issue) but I think there is no convincing explanation," the business daily quoted her as saying.

Regarded as a possible future contender to become Japan's first woman prime minister, Obuchi apologized at a parliamentary panel on Thursday in the wake of the reports of the misuse of funds, which could violate electoral and political funding laws.

A Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) spokesman said he was unaware of any plans by Obuchi to quit. No one answered the phone at her political office. METI said later in a media notice that she would cancel a visit to central Japan planned for Saturday to avoid expected "disorder".

Abe tapped Obuchi, a telegenic mother of two young children, less than two months ago to head the powerful METI. She was one of five women Abe chose in a cabinet reshuffle in an effort to bolster his popularity by showing his commitment to promoting women.

"I feel that ignorance is no excuse," Obuchi said on Friday in response to repeated questions at a parliamentary panel.



Theater tickets

The weekly magazine Shukan Shincho reported that two political support groups in Obuchi's constituency had spent some 26 million yen (245,600 USD) on theater tickets for her backers in 2010 and 2011. Major newspapers also followed up on the allegations made by the magazine.

The Mainichi newspaper said Obuchi's political funding oversight body had spent about 3.6 million yen over five years from 2008 at a clothing shop run by her sister's husband and a design office run by her sister. The Asahi newspaper reported additional questionable use of funds on Saturday.

Obuchi has said she had instructed the political groups to investigate the matter, adding she believed the payments to her sister's shop fell within the scope of political activities but that further checks would be made.

She said she believed her supporters had paid for the theater events themselves but was aware it would be a violation of the law if her political groups made additional payments.

sumber : Reuters

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