Scandals plague Japan's leadership

Associated Press
Published September 2, 2007

TOKYO - Japan's agricultural minister acknowledged Saturday that a private farming group he leads exaggerated crop damage in order to receive government compensation, in the latest political scandal to embarrass Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration.

The statement came just days after Abe reshuffled his Cabinet following a humiliating upper house electoral loss in July, blamed on a spate of scandals within his government. Two more political fund scandals involving Abe's ruling party lawmakers also emerged Saturday.

Agriculture Minister Takehiko Endo acknowledged that the agriculture cooperative in his home state of Yamagata, which he has headed for 25 years, collected $9,930 in government payments by overstating weather damage done to the 1999 grape harvest.

Endo said he will resign as head of the local farming group, but refused to step down as the agriculture minister.

Vice Foreign Minister Yukiko Sakamoto, a political appointee, acknowledged her support group faked political funds reports in 2004 and 2005 to enter fictitious lecture costs, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Mitsuhide Iwaki said he mistakenly reported fundraising ticket sales as political donations.