Japanese minister Keishu Tanaka refuses to quit over yakuza claims

Keishu Tanaka 'undergoing tests'; he reportedly will quit over alleged role at gangster's wedding

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:56am

Japan's justice minister, appointed just 18 days ago, has admitted himself to hospital and appears set to resign after admitting that he played a ceremonial role in a yakuza wedding decades ago.

Both Kyodo News and public broadcaster NHK reported yesterday that Keishu Tanaka was going to quit.

Tanaka, 74, was, brought into the cabinet as part of a reshuffle aimed at shoring up Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's shaky administration.

But he was forced to admit a yakuza connection after a tabloid magazine revealed he had acted in the ceremonial role of "matchmaker" at a senior gangster's wedding 30 years ago.

Tanaka said he only found out afterwards that gangsters were involved in the wedding. He also said he had unwittingly accepted donations from a company run by foreign nationals in a breach of the political funding law, and returned the money this month.

The minister checked in yesterday to a Tokyo hospital, Kyodo and NHK TV said. Neither NHK nor Kyodo said where they were getting the information.

"I have heard that Minister Tanaka is undergoing tests in the hospital," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said after the minister skipped a morning cabinet meeting. "I have heard nothing about resignation."

Television footage showed Tanaka getting mobbed by reporters, with the minister again saying he would not resign.

He apologised this month for serving in the wedding, but had repeatedly insisted he would not be stepping down, reiterating it at a parliamentary session where he was grilled on the gangster 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 newspaper

A senior Democratic Party of Japan official said, "Tanaka should resign and I said so to the prime minister," while another official close to Noda's said, "We can't protect Tanaka any more", according to the Yomiuri.

Yakuza organisations are involved in a range of illegal activities including drug dealing, prostitution, loan sharking and construction corruption.

Tanaka's resignation would be another blow to Noda, who had hoped that the October 1 reshuffle would boost his DPJ's chances in an election that must be called by August.

Noda was yesterday due to meet the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe and New Komeito Party head Natsuo Yamaguchi to discuss election timing and a bill authorising the sale of bonds.

Finance Minister Koriki Jojima denied allegations that he too had links to organised crime. The weekly Shukan Bunshun said he received support from gangsters, and Jojima's office said a letter had been sent demanding a correction and apology.

Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg