Tokyo Olympics Bid Chairman Inose Caught Up In Political Funds Scandal
Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who was chairman of the city’s successful 2020 Olympic bid, faces increasing pressure to resign over a political funding scandal involving 50M yen ($500,000) in a paper bag and box cutter blades sent to his office. Inose has admitted receiving an unconditional loan from the founder of a powerful medical group before the gubernatorial election in Dec. '12. He claimed this week that he failed to declare the money, as required by election law, because it was a personal loan, unrelated to his campaign. Inose told reporters in Tokyo that he was offered 50M yen by Tokushakai Group founder Torao Tokuda and “thought it would be rude to decline.” However, according to public broadcaster NHK, Inose approached Tokuda asking for 100M yen. In September, investigations began into illegal campaigning for Takeshi Tokuda, the founder’s son and a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Shortly afterward, Inose decided to return the loan, sending one of his aides carrying 50M yen in a paper bag to meet the younger Tokuda’s wife. Following the arrest of six members of Tokuda’s staff on Nov. 12, the three-term lawmaker resigned.
AN OLYMPIC DISTRACTION: Asked why it took so long after the election to return the money, Inose said he had been preoccupied with the Olympic bid. An editorial in the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on Nov. 25 noted, “The governor is playing a central role in preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. We regret that this scandal has poured cold water on the festive mood of hosting the sports extravaganza.” Senior metropolitan government officials have also voiced concern about damage to the image of the Tokyo Olympics due to the scandal. One citizens’ group has filed charges against Inose with Tokyo prosecutors, while two box cutter blades in an envelope sent to the governor from a nationalist group were intercepted by security staff earlier this week.
(Gavin Blair is a writer in Tokyo.)