Japan economy minister Isshu Sugawara resigns over alleged campaign law violations

Japanese Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara told reporters he tendered his resignation, becoming the first member of Mr Abe's new Cabinet to leave.
Japanese Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara told reporters he tendered his resignation, becoming the first member of Mr Abe's new Cabinet to leave.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara said he has resigned after facing allegations of suspected violations of campaign finance laws, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government.

Mr Sugawara, 57, told reporters on Friday (Oct 25) that he tendered his resignation, becoming the first member of Mr Abe's new Cabinet to leave after being appointed in September to the post responsible for the economy, trade and industry.

Mr Abe told reporters he has accepted the resignation and will appoint Mr Hiroshi Kajiyama, a veteran in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, to replace Mr Sugawara, who said he didn't want his personal issues to disrupt Parliament.

Pressure mounted on Mr Sugawara this week when the Shukan Bunshun magazine published an article alleging that his secretary offered 20,000 yen (S$250) in condolence money to the family of a supporter as a funeral offering and made other inappropriate gift offerings that included providing fruit to followers.

Japanese law prohibits these types of donations, which can be seen as a form of vote buying and influence peddling.

Mr Sugawara's ministry has been at the forefront of export restrictions placed on items sent to South Korea as a part of an escalating feud between the neighbours and is playing a role in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal among South-east Asian nations and other Asian partners.

Japan and others are pushing for a final deal by the end of the year, with the RCEP pact getting a fresh push at the meeting of Asean leaders that starts next week.