Another money scandal, the largest in three years to hit the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has forced the "Don" of Japanese politics, Shin Kanemaru, to resign from two high posts.
Mr. Kanemaru admitted yesterday that his secretary accepted $4 million from the head of a leading trucking firm, Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin. He said he would leave his job as LDP vice president and as head of the party's most powerful faction.
Kanemaru's surprise announcement, which is certain to shake up Japanese politics and lead to stronger calls for reform, partly confirms widespread reports that prosecutors know of about 10 LDP members who allegedly received $17.2 million in the so-called Sagawa bribery scandal, in which special favors were given to the trucking firm.
"I first refused the money," Kanemaru told reporters, "But I accepted it in the end as a contribution to my colleagues at the time of general elections [in 1990]. I must assume responsibility for my conduct."
The first indictments were expected in September, and Kanemaru may have resigned now to contain the damage to his reputation. His departure could undermine Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, whose weak standing within the LDP led him to ask Kanemaru to be LDP vice president.
The elderly Kanemaru, born the son of a sake dealer, has wielded such tremendous political power from his district around Mt. Fuji that he has often been welcomed into the White House, with the latest visit coming in June to hold talks with President Bush.
Kanemaru's admission of wrong-doing, says political analyst Yoshimasa Matsuoka, "is a symbol that shows that LDP, in its entirety, is a corrupt party. But it will not have any effect on the administration. The public is allowing this to continue."