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Scandal-hit minister Katayama gave free Diet pass to 'secretary' in graft scandal

Regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama speaks at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Nov. 2, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama admitted publicly on Nov. 2 that she had provided a pass to the House of Councillors to a person who reportedly worked as her private secretary and has been accused of involved in alleged influence peddling.

Weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun has reported that Katayama contacted the National Tax Agency on behalf of a company that allegedly paid the secretary 1 million yen in exchange for lobbying for tax breaks in 2015.

Katayama revealed during the Nov. 2 House of Representatives Budget Committee session that she had arranged for the person to have the upper house building pass from October 2011 to May 2015. However, the minister had also denied the previous day that the person cited in the Shukan Bunshun article had been her secretary.

This prompted Yuichi Goto of the opposition Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) to point out, "The person can't receive a free pass if they are not a private secretary." Katayama responded that "there is no legal definition of a private secretary."

The minister also denied accepting 1 million yen or influencing tax authorities as reported by the magazine. Shukan Bunshun has released an audio file related to the allegations that apparently includes Katayama's voice, but she has refused to confirm or deny whether the voice on the recording is hers. "I and those close to me listened to the recording, but I can't tell whether the voice was mine," she said.

(Japanese original by Tetsuya Kageyama, Political News Department)

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