Japan’s justice minister, who was appointed just 18 days ago, is set to resign, media said yesterday, after he admitted having had links with organized crime.
Japanese Minister of Justice Keishu Tanaka was brought into the Cabinet less than three weeks ago as part of a reshuffle aimed at shoring up Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s shaky administration.
However, he was forced to admit a yakuza connection after a tabloid magazine revealed he had once acted as matchmaker for a senior mobster.
Tanaka, whose ministry oversees the work of the courts, apologized and has thus far insisted he would not be stepping down, including at a parliamentary session where he was grilled on the links.
“I won’t resign. The relationship with a crime syndicate is an age-old story,” Tanaka said late on Thursday, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.
However, a senior Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) official said: “Tanaka should resign and I said so to the prime minister,” while another official close to the premier said: “We can’t protect Tanaka any more,” the Yomiuri said.
The yakuza are not illegal in Japan, but, like Italy’s Mafia or China’s triads, are involved in a range of illicit activities including drug dealing, prostitution, loan sharking and construction corruption.
Yesterday morning Tanaka skipped a Cabinet meeting for “health reasons,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters, declining to provide details.
Television footage showed Tanaka getting mobbed by reporters, with the minister again saying he would not resign.
However, Japan’s print and broadcast media, which are usually well-informed on political developments — sometimes more so than the characters involved — were united on his impending downfall. Several outlets said he had checked in to a hospital.
Tanaka’s expected resignation would deal a blow to Noda, who is already faced with a shrinking majority and an opposition threatening to block a vital bond issuance bill.