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Ex-gov't official admits creating memo about pyramid scheme firm suspected of links to Abe

The document shared within the Consumer Affairs Agency in considering administrative action against Japan Life Co. is seen in this photo provided by the Japanese Communist Party.

TOKYO -- A former Consumer Affairs Agency official, who was later hired by failed healthcare product rental firm Japan Life Co., told the Mainichi Shimbun that he created an in-house document that, according to opposition parties, suggests the agency delayed on-site inspection of the firm due to political pressure.

Japan Life Co. collapsed after running a malicious pyramid scheme.

The document, dated July 13, 2014, was presented as the agency's in-house document at a meeting of the opposition bloc's investigative committee on the controversial cherry-blossom viewing party held on Dec. 2.

According to the former official, he typed up the document, with a header that says "Specific nature of this case," in July 2014. As his superior had been replaced, he created the memo to be shared at a meeting with his new boss. It was used as a reference to consider administrative action against Japan Life, whose former chairman is suspected of being invited to the sakura party hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

When asked about the part in the document that reads, "There are concerns about the effects (of taking administrative action) based on politics," the former official told the Mainichi, "If there was actually (something political) about it, I would have written it differently. It was just friendly advice." He added, "In many cases, companies in that industry have connections to politicians. I didn't have a particular politician in mind (when I wrote the memo)."

His former superior who was given the explanation from the official also admitted that the document was created within the agency. At the same time, the former boss emphasized that no favorable treatment for Japan Life was taken to delay an inspection of the company and that there was no pressure from politicians, saying that he believed the former official was "trying to say that this was a rather complicated matter."

The former Consumer Affairs Agency official retired in March 2015 and then was rehired by his original employer, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. About four months after he went back to the economy ministry, he landed a spot at Japan Life.

Japan Life lured prospective customers with a marketing flyer highlighting that then chairman Takayoshi Yamaguchi was invited to the 2015 sakura party hosted by Prime Minister Abe. The former official, however, denied any knowledge of a relationship between Yamaguchi and Abe, telling the Mainichi, "It was before I joined the company. I had never seen the flyer."

He also explained that he was hired by Japan Life after his retirement because he "won the trust of a Japan Life representative as he was in charge of giving the company guidance as a Consumer Affairs Agency official." He stressed that he had only met with Yamaguchi "maybe twice."

Asked whether the document was created within the agency, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety Seiichi Eto refused to comment during a news conference on Dec. 10.

(Japanese original by Taku Soda and Mei Nammo, City News Department and Yoshiaki Ebata, Integrated Digital News Center)

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