Tokyo governor who helped get Olympics resigns in money scandal

Tokyo governor who helped get Olympics resigns in money scandal

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Tokyo governor who helped get Olympics resigns in money scandal

Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose bows during a news conference at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office in Tokyo Dec 19, 2013. REUTERS photo

Tokyo's governor, one of the main faces of the mega-city's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics, resigned Dec. 19 after admitting he was naive for accepting an undeclared $500,000 from a hospital tycoon.

Naoki Inose, who was elected head of one of the world's biggest conurbations a year ago, had faced weeks of intense pressure over suspicions that the money amounted to a bribe in an attempt to influence policy.

"I have decided to resign from the post of Tokyo governor," Inose told a hurriedly arranged press conference.

The 67-year-old Inose admitted he had been naive about the cut and thrust of politics.

"I intended to fulfil my duty of explaining to the city assembly, people of Tokyo and people of the nation, but regrettably I could not clear doubts over me." Inose was a key figure in Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympics and he said his resignation was partially aimed at avoiding a negative impact on preparations for the Games.

"At this important juncture when Japan needs to... jump-start towards 2020, we can't afford to paralyse the metropolitan government with my problems," he said. "I decided that my stepping down is the only way to break the impasse." Writer-turned-politician Inose acknowledged in November he had received 50 million yen ($500,000) from the political family behind the huge Tokushukai medical group before last year's gubernatorial election.

The money, handed to him in cash, was kept in a safety deposit box and, said Inose, was a personal loan that had nothing to do with his campaign for the city's top job.

Under Japanese election law, campaign treasurers must report all income such as donations related to electioneering. Those who violate the law can face prison terms of up to three years or fines of up to 500,000 yen.

The money trail surfaced in September when prosecutors raided the Tokyo headquarters of Tokushukai over claims it had paid staff to campaign for the election ambitions of Takeshi Tokuda, one of the heirs to the family fortune.

A week later Inose's secretary returned the 50 million yen to the family, but by mid-November the transaction had become public knowledge.

At the time, Inose said he was offered the money by the Tokudas and felt "it would be rude to refuse."

Tokyo's governor is the most senior politician in the metropolis, including the city proper, which is home to around 9 million people, as well as overseeing more rural districts and islands. He has overall charge of an annual budget of more than $60 billion.

An election to replace Inose is expected next month. Possible candidates being mentioned in the media include Hideo Higashikokubaru, a comedian-turned-politician who resigned as a lower house member this week, and education minister Hakubun Shimomura.