Japanese Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, his political future at stake, defended himself on Thursday against charges that he was directly involved in an insider trading scandal that has rocked the government.
During an unusual 10-minute parliamentary session in which only he spoke, Miyazawa denied that he was directly involved and blamed his secretary.
“My former secretary allowed one of his close friends to use my name to purchase shares in property company Recruit Cosmos without my knowledge,” he said.
The shares were purchased shortly before they soared in price after being listed on the stock market.
Miyazawa’s explanation failed to satisfy opposition party critics, some of whom have called for his resignation.
Major Career Setback
“His explanation was like a childish trick,” one opposition member said.
Considered one of the more intellectual and international of Japan’s politicians, the 69-year-old lawmaker has seen his political reputation badly damaged by the scandal.
Most analysts are betting that he will survive as finance minister, though they believe that his hopes of one day succeeding Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita have been set back significantly.
Miyazawa leads the third-biggest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, and his departure from the cabinet would rob Takeshita of important support.
“Takeshita cannot make Miyazawa a scapegoat because such a move will no doubt shake the foundation of the LDP,” said Kuniko Inoguchi, a professor at Sophia University.
Secretaries of other politicians, including Takeshita, former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe and opposition party lawmakers, were reported to have bought shares in Recruit Cosmos in their own names, not in the names of their bosses.
Tax Reform Package Delayed
“I would think it would be counterproductive (for Takeshita to force Miyazawa to resign),” said Bank of Tokyo Chairman Yusuke Kashiwagi. “It would only aggravate the issue instead of solving it.
“Once they taste blood, do you think the fight will end?” he asked, referring to opposition party politicians who are using the scandal to delay passage of Takeshita’s controversial tax reform package.
“The resignation of Miyazawa will also damage the quality of the LDP’s politics over the long term because he is regarded as one of the most capable LDP politicians,” Inoguchi said.
Toshihiko Hara, a professor at Tokai University, said Miyazawa’s resignation as finance minister would be a big loss to Japan’s economic diplomacy.
During his two years as finance minister, Miyazawa has played a key role in keeping world economic growth on track.