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Japan’s economy minister grilled over report he took bribes

January 21, 2016

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economy minister was grilled in parliament Thursday by opposition lawmakers over a report that he accepted bribes from a construction company. He denied any wrongdoing and promised an investigation.

The Weekly Bunshun magazine reported that Economy and Fiscal Minister Akira Amari and his aides allegedly accepted at least 12 million yen ($103,000) in cash and hospitality from the company over the past three years.

The magazine said the money was in exchange for the Amari office’s help in settling a dispute between the company, identified only as “S″ and a housing development organization.

Amari is one of the most trusted members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet and served as Japan’s top negotiator for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

He does not face a criminal investigation. Amari vowed to continue his ministerial job and attend a signing ceremony of the TPP agreement in New Zealand next month.

“In my political career until today, I have never done anything against the law,” he said.

In parliament, Amari acknowledged that officials from the company made courtesy visits to his office, but said he did not remember any details. Some opposition lawmakers heckled him and demanded his resignation.

“I will have the case thoroughly investigated so I can be accountable,” Amari told the Upper House audit committee. “My reaction (to the article) was that had something like this really been going on? I suspect this could be fiction.”

The magazine said that on one occasion, a construction company employee met with Amari in his office in November 2013, handing him an envelope containing 500,000 yen in cash and an expensive Japanese sweet called “yokan.”

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