Seeking to restore public confidence, Japan's embattled central bank chief disclosed personal assets of ¥231.7 million (US$2 million) to parliament yesterday amid calls for his resignation over an investment scandal.
The move, which verified Bank of Japan (BoJ) Governor Toshihiko Fukui's millionaire status to the nation, came as a top ruling party official said Fukui should keep his post despite a fresh public opinion poll showing he should step down.
"I expect him to fulfill his duty and make efforts and improve what needs to be improved in internal BoJ policy to quickly regain the trust of the people," said Tsutomu Takebe, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party.
According to a breakdown of Fukui's assets provided by the lower house's Financial Affairs Committee, Fukui had ¥186.6 million in savings, ¥10 million in Japanese government bonds and ¥35.1 million in other investments at the end of March this year.
His wife held an additional ¥53.23 million in assets.
The list does not include investments in five other stocks and holdings in the controversial Murakami Fund that triggered the scandal in the first place.
Fukui's holding in that fund, which he has since applied to sell, totaled ¥22 million in February, more than doubling over the seven years since he first purchased shares.
Taking all sources into account, Kyodo News agency said that Fukui and his wife had combined assets worth ¥341 million yen as of March 31.
The flare-up comes at a delicate time for the BoJ, which is poised to raise interest rates amid a budding economic recovery. Some analysts say the scandal may distract the bank and push back the first rate hike, which many had expected would come next month.
Fukui, BoJ chief since March 2003, has been under fire since acknowledging earlier this month he invested ¥10 million in a fund managed by Yoshiaki Murakami, who was arrested on June 5 on suspicion of insider trading.
While Fukui's investment, made in 1999 while he was working at a private think tank, is not illegal, it has raised questions about conflict of interest. Recent opinion polls show many Japanese believe Fukui should resign, and opposition parties have demanded he step down immediately.
A new poll published yesterday by the Asahi newspaper indicated about 67 percent of Japanese think Fukui should step down. About 80 percent said there was a "problem" with his investments.
Fueling the outrage is resentment felt by ordinary Japanese workers who have been earning virtually no interest on their savings at the nation's banks due to the BoJ's zero interest rate policy -- while the head of the central bank raked in handsome returns.