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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 May 23 - 29  > Agriculture Minister’s suicide must not put an end to investigations into his scandals
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2007 May 23 - 29 [SCANDAL]

Agriculture Minister’s suicide must not put an end to investigations into his scandals

May 29, 2007
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Matsuoka Toshikatsu committed suicide on May 28. This was the first time that an incumbent cabinet minister killed himself since the end of WWII.

It is suspected that Matsuoka’s suicide could have something to do with the series of money scandals that surfaced, such as his fraudulent office expenses and bid-riggings led by a semi-governmental body affiliated with the agriculture ministry.

Matsuoka failed to disclose his involvement in these scandals. His suicide must not put an end to investigations. These scandals need to be thoroughly investigated by authorities and through testimonies of those who were involved.

Matsuoka had his political body’s main office in the Dietmembers’ Office Building that does not charge for rent, water, or electricity. However, he reported that he had used tens of millions of yen on office expenses and utilities. He is suspected of having made false reports and illegitimate use of funds which he wanted to hide from public scrutiny.

While denying such allegations, Matsuoka refused to explain how he actually spent the money.

Matsuoka was also allegedly involved in bid-riggings led by the Japan Green Resources Agency (JGRA), a semi-governmental body that was raided by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office based on a criminal charge filed by the Fair Trade Commission. He received 130 million yen in donations from public service corporations representing contractors that have been awarded JGRA contracts.

He was reportedly involved in ordering JGRA-funded public works projects in Kumamoto Prefecture where he was from. Concerning this scandal, some news media reported that authorities might soon conduct investigations into people close to him.

JGRA public works projects are mostly subsidized by the government. Not only the public prosecutors but the agriculture ministry and the government must investigate and find out if Matsuoka used his influence to make illicit gain.

Prime Minister’s responsibility called into question

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo bears a heavy responsibility for appointing Matsuoka as agriculture minister. Abe appointed Matsuoka, who has been dubbed as “a department store of scandals,” to the ministerial post because Matsuoka was one of Abe’s “pro-Yasukuni” ideology comrades.

In defiance of public criticism, Abe has defended Matsuoka to the end.

The prime minister has the responsibility to investigate the scandals. Abe must not use Matsuoka’s suicide as a pretext to keep covering up the facts.
- Akahata, May 29, 2007
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