Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Japanese minister admits mishandling political donation

ANOTHER BLOW Minister Hiroya Masuda admitted to receiving a US$8,700 campaign donation in 2003 but not registering it on the appropriate form

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new Cabinet took another blow yesterday as a minister in charge of political funding admitted that he had in the past mishandled a political donation.

Hiroya Masuda, who was appointed the minister of internal affairs and communications in an Aug. 27 Cabinet reshuffle, said that his political office when he was a prefectural governor had made the mistake.

CAMPAIGN

The office, tasked to manage his political funds, received a donation of ?1 million (US$8,700) when he was campaigning to be re-elected as the governor of rural Iwate in 2003.

But the office did not register the donation in the correct official report on political funding, although it issued a receipt for the money to the donor, another Masuda support group.

"It was an awful mistake. I feel deeply ashamed of my insufficient control over the matter," Masuda told a news conference.

"As the minister in charge of political funds, I take this matter very seriously. I wish to make earnest explanations and solicit understanding from the people as I continue carrying out my duties," he said.

DIFFERENT REPORT

Masuda, 55, who served as Iwate governor for 12 years until he retired last April, said that he had accounted for the donation in a different official report.

A number of Japanese ministers have apologized or resigned for financial irregularities just weeks after Abe reshuffled his cabinet in an effort to bolster his sagging support and wipe the slate clean of earlier scandals.

The reshuffle came after a shock defeat for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in upper house parliamentary elections late July.

Abe's farm minister and a vice foreign minister both resigned on Monday over financial irregularities. One day later, an LDP lawmaker resigned over election fraud by his staff.

On Wednesday, the new environment minister and the state minister in charge of gender equality separately apologized for filing incorrect political funding reports.

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