UPDATE: 5:09 EST — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe names Nobuteru Ishihara as the country’s new economy minister, following the announcement from Akira Amari that he would resign from his post, Bloomberg reported. Ishihara was a former executive of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to Reuters.
Japan’s Economy and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari said Thursday that he will resign from his post following graft allegations that he received money from a construction firm’s executive in exchange of favors for land ownership and waste removals. The announcement comes after Amari reportedly made a statement earlier in the day denying the allegations.
Amari looked tearful Thursday as he announced his resignation and apologized for the scandal that caused him embarrassment, according to Bloomberg. He said that any cash received by him was taken only as a political donation, but added that he should be responsible for the happenings in his office, under his leadership.
“Japan is finally emerging from deflation,” Amari said, according to Japan Times, adding: “We need to pass legislation through parliament for steps to beat deflation and create a strong economy as soon as possible.” He also said: “Anything that hampers this must be eliminated, and I’m no exception. I, therefore, would like to resign as minister to take responsibility.”
Amari said that he accepted the money but it was done "according to the rules," the Financial Times reported. He added that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had tried to talk to him about not resigning from his post.
Local magazine, Shukan Bunshun, reported last week that Amari and his staff took money from an unidentified Chiba Prefecture-based construction company, violating a political funding law. The payments amounted to at least 12 million yen ($101,000), and there was no mention of the money in his political funding record, the magazine alleged, according to Bloomberg.
A follow-up report published Thursday in Shukan Bunshun said that he pocketed the money twice, in cash envelopes containing 500,000 yen ($4,206). More unrecorded payments were made amounting to tens of millions of yen, the report added.
"Putting money in my suit pocket in front of a visitor ... would be lacking dignity as a human being," Amari said at a news conference Thursday, according to Reuters.
Amari, who has been a close ally of the prime minister and a core member of his "Abenomics" program, is the fourth minister to resign over allegations of financial impropriety. His resignation could be a blow to Abe's run-up to the elections this summer in the upper house of the country’s parliament.