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Japan Bank Linked to Scandal Raided

February 3, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ Tokyo prosecutors raided the headquarters of a collapsed Japanese bank today to search for evidence linking it to a bribery scandal that has rocked Japan’s powerful Finance Ministry.

Hokkaido Takushoku Bank Ltd. in Sapporo, 520 miles northwest of Tokyo, was raided a week after two Finance Ministry officials were arrested on charges of accepting expensive meals and golf outings from banking officials in exchange for information on upcoming bank inspections.

The scandal triggered the resignation of Japan’s Finance Minister and the ministry’s top bureaucrat last week. It also sparked calls to strip the ministry of its vast oversight powers.

Starting in 1994, Hokkaido Takushoku allegedly spent $3,175 on one of the two ministry officials taken into custody, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported today.

The bank’s Tokyo office was already searched by prosecutors last week, along with the headquarters of Sanwa Bank Ltd. and two other banks suspected of wining-and-dining Finance Ministry officials.

In testimony today before Japan’s Parliament, Sanwa Bank president Naotaka Saeki apologized for his bank’s suspected role in the scandal, Kyodo News reported.

Yet Saeki, who recently stepped down as head of Japan’s leading bank association, denied that Sanwa ordered its Finance Ministry liaison official to obtain secret information.

Hokkaido Takushoku, Japan’s 10th-biggest commercial bank, collapsed Nov. 17 under a mountain of non-performing loans.

It was one of a handful of high-profile Japanese financial institution bankruptcies late last year, coming shortly before the failure of Yamaichi Securities Co., Japan’s fourth-largest brokerage.

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