Suzuki likely to have perjured himself: JCP Koike

Suspicion is growing that Liberal Democratic Party Dietmember Suzuki Muneo may have perjured himself when he appeared as a sworn witness before the Diet on March 11 concerning his alleged interference with foreign ministry affairs.

Koike Akira, Japanese Communist Party lawmaker, raised the issue in the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on March 12.

As revealed by JCP Dietmember Sasaki Kensho, the focal point of the Suzuki Muneo-Foreign Ministry scandal is "Muneo House," a friendship house constructed in 1999 on Kunashiri Island as part of Japan's aid to the Russian-held four "northern islands."

In reply to questions by Sasaki, Suzuki said that foreign ministry officials didn't refer to a specific company in relation to the bidding for the house construction.

But the Foreign Ministry European Division director in answer to Koike said that the ministry at that time explained to Suzuki that there is only one company qualified to be a bidder in this case.

Koike emphasized that the ministry answer shows that Suzuki's testimony to be false and that the House of Councilors must also summon him as a sworn witness.

Koike also put under light the suspicious contracts on self-propelled barges as part of Japan's economic assistance to the four "northern islands," on which a report issued by the Foreign Ministry denied Suzuki's involvement.

Japan supplied Russia with two such barges to Russia; one is the "Kibo Maru" (in 1998, priced at 103.95 million yen or about 800,000 dollars), the other, the "Yuko Maru" (in 2001, at 189 million yen or 1.45 million dollars). The original standards set for bidders were that only Class A shipbuilders capable of building ships priced at 15 million yen (115,384 dollars) and over can apply. There were 33 such firms in Hokkaido.

Astonishingly, the successful bidder for both barges was Nemuro Shipbuilding Co., a Class B company with a capacity of building ships costing less than 15 million yen and more than 3 million yen. The company president is an influential supporter of LDP Suzuki. The company donated 2.4 million yen (18,640 dollars) to Suzuki between 1996 to 1999.

Koike asked the ministry why the Class-B company was allowed to take part in the bidding. A director revealed ministry documents endorsing the existence of a 'political judgment' to loosen the bidding standard, and an entry suggesting the bidder be Nemuro Shipbuilding.

Koike demanded that the government make a thorough investigation into the barges bidding, stressing that Suzuki is also suspected of having a hand in rigging them. Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro said that the foreign ministry will deal with it, and the foreign minister took a passive attitude to this revelation. (end)