Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari resigned abruptly Thursday to take responsibility for a political funding scandal that has rocked the government.
However, Amari denied having taken bribes.
The resignation of Amari, who has spearheaded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, could pose a setback to the administration’s “Abenomics” growth plan, aimed at driving Japan out of deflation, analysts said.
But the government moved swiftly to contain the fallout by appointing Nobuteru Ishihara, a former minister and secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as his replacement, Reuters reported.
In a packed news conference televised live, Amari acknowledged taking money from a construction company executive but said he told his aides to correctly record the funds as a political donation.
While asserting his legal innocence, Amari said he was stepping down to prevent the scandal from being a distraction to the Abe administration’s drive to pull the country out of deflation.
Part of the money has gone missing because of mistakes by his secretaries, Amari said, but two of them have resigned and he must take responsibility as their supervisor.
Last week, Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun published an article accusing Amari and his aides of accepting money from an unnamed construction company in exchange for helping that firm receive government compensation for disputes over land ownership and waste removal at a public works site.
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