Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tokyo Special Investigations Department Has Gone into Action on the Yamada Yōkō Affair

To a Japanese public used to watching beleaguered CEOs, politicians, and top bureaucrats scurrying away from persistent TV reporters and their camera crews, it must have been a refreshing sight to see a calmly serious Takemasa Moriya in his civvies, holding an impromptu news conference in front of his doorsteps. Not that he appeared to be very forthcoming in the snippets that I caught, as he begged off, stating that he was being questioned by the Defense Ministry. I went to bed, thinking that Defense Minister Ishiba better get hold of Donald Rumsfeld's interrogation manual, get to the bottom of things, then do everything in his power to set things right. Mr. Moriya was sure to be grilled in the Diet, and it is usually the case that the conclusions of 'internal investigations' invariably fall apart in the light of serious third-party scrutiny. You don't want to be caught between lame excuses and harsh realities, nor do you want to cede the initiative to the opposition. And Prime Minister Fukuda should start showing face himself if he wants to salvage the refueling operations and shore up long-term prospects for his administration.

And then I get up, go out, pick up the morning paper, and the front page is emblazoned with the headline:

Yamada Yōkō's US Subsidiary Investigated

Yomiuri has found out that the Public Prosecutors Office has been receiving judicial assistance from US authorities in investigating the US subsidiary for accounting irregularities. According to the report (citing multiple Yamada Yōkō sources) a former head of the US subsidiary built a multimillion dollar slush fund, some of which the sources suspect was used to entertain JSDA officials visiting the US as well as US vendors. The former US subsidiary head was a close associate of the former Yamada Yōkō executive who had treated Mr. Moriya to golf and meals excursions, and was one of the people who joined hands with him to form Nihon Mirise. Ominously, the Special Investigations Department of the Tokyo Local Public Prosecutors Office is in charge of the case. This particular Special Investigations Department (Osaka and, since 1996, Nagoya have one each as well) handles most major economic and political crime investigations, as well as large tax evasion cases.

At a minimum, this guarantees that the issue will be in the public eye for the duration of this Diet session. I think that the chances of the Fukuda administration retaking the initiative on the refueling extension bill have diminished substantially.

Incidentally, running alongside this story on the same front page is yet another revelation (not yet online) in an ongoing medical scandal, where a pharmaceutical company and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has failed to act on information that could have led to early treatment for victims of drug-induced hepatitis. This falls on the shoulders of Yoichi Masuzoe, the MHLW Minister who is already charged with cleaning up the public pension records.

When it pours, it pours.

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