TOKYO -- A new chapter in Japan's "money politics" scandals may have opened with the disclosure today that a former cabinet minister will soon be indicted on tax-evasion charges.
Investigators searched the offices of Toshiyuki Inamura, a member of the Japanese Diet and a former environment agency chief, yesterday, seeking evidence that Inamura hid more than $20 million in income from stock speculation. Japanese press reports said Inamura will be indicted soon.
The revelation is an embarrassment for Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, of which Inamura is a member. Although only Inamura has been implicated so far, the development raises the possibility that a new scandal may be about to hit the LDP.
The party has been badly damaged over the last couple of years by disclosures that many of its leading members were given gifts of stock and money by Recruit Cosmos, a real estate conglomerate. The Recruit scandal forced several resignations and focused attention on the ease with which the rich can gain influence here by funneling funds to politicians.
Inamura is the first politician named so far in connection with another financial scandal, the leading figure in which is a prominent stock speculator, Mitsuhiro Kotani. Rumors have been floating for some time that politicians would be linked with Kotani, who is on trial for stock manipulation.