Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Former Japanese defense official arrested in probe

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Japanese prosecutors arrested a former top defense official who is at the heart of a scandal that is exacerbating a parliamentary deadlock and threatens to ensnare the finance minister.

Former vice defense minister Takemasa Moriya, 63, was arrested along with his wife Sachiko and a former defense contractor who entertained the couple with golfing trips, prosecutors said.

Moriya, whose clout won him the nickname "emperor of the defense ministry" before he retired in August, has publicly admitted accepting dinners, gifts and hundreds of golf trips paid by Yamada Corp.

However, he has denied offering any favors in return.

The couple knew they were "entertained as rewards for the favors they had extended in Yamada Corp's supply of equipment and other items to the Self-Defense Forces," the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office said.

It said in a statement it believed 12 rounds of golf, which cost ?3.89 million (US$35,000) constituted bribery.

The scandal has stalled government efforts to enact a bill to restart a naval mission in support of US-led operations in Afghanistan, debate on which began in parliament's upper house yesterday.

An upper house panel has voted to call Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga to testify under oath in parliament on Monday over his suspected ties to the defense contractor, who was recently arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.

Moriya told parliament earlier this month that Nukaga, a two-time former defense minister who has twice resigned in the past over scandals, had been at a dinner attended by himself and Miyazaki.

Nukaga said yesterday that he had not been present at the dinner and had done no favors for Yamada.

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