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Ex-Okinawa affairs minister denies support group head received money over base relocation

Yosuke Tsuruho (Mainichi)

Former Cabinet minister Yosuke Tsuruho has denied a report that the head of his support group accepted over 10 million yen from a quarrying company based in Kagoshima Prefecture in connection with the relocation of the U.S. military's Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture.

"I have no recollection of that at all," Tsuruho told reporters on Nov. 21 after meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at the prime minister's office. He added he will release a statement shortly explaining the matter.

The Sunday Nov. 19 weekly edition of the Shimbun Akahata, the organ of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), reported that the company official met with Tsuruho at the minister' office on seven occasions while he was serving as minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs and lobbied the minister over the firm's bid to win a contract on the relocation project.

The Shimbun Akahata quoted the official as saying that the company handed over more than 10 million yen to the leader of Tsuruho's support body who served as a go-between. Moreover, the JCP organ reported that the official claimed that they were asked by the support organization head to back Tsuruho in the 2016 House of Councillors election.

In a related development, Hiroshi Moriyama, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee who the paper reported was introduced to the quarrying firm, has admitted to having met the official.

"Mr. Tsuruho asked me to listen to what the official had to say, so I talked with the person," he told reporters on Nov. 21. "I remember we talked about whether the company can perform the work because there is no route or port through which quarried rocks could be transported."

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