TOKYO (TR) – Justice minister Keishu Tanaka resigned on Tuesday morning due to health problems, a move that follows revelations that he has ties to organized crime and a funding scandal, reports the Sankei Shimbun (Oct. 23).
Tanaka, a Lower House member from Kanagawa Prefecture, cited an irregular heartbeat and other ailments in his letter of resignation submitted by his secretary to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
“I cannot permit myself to impose my troubles on the function of the Ministry of Justice, the Diet and the nation,” said Tanaka, as reported by the Yomiuri Shimbun. “I have decided to resign, and it is inexcusable.”
The 74-year-old was appointed as justice minister on October 1, when Noda reshuffled the Cabinet in an attempt to boost sagging support. The minister entered a Tokyo hospital for heart-related issues last Friday. He was discharged on Monday.
The October 18 issue of weekly tabloid Shukan Shincho revealed that three decades ago Tanaka acted as a marriage matchmaker for an upper member of the Inagawa-kai, Japan’s third-largest crime family, in Yokohama and participated in the ceremony by giving a speech — allegations that the minister did not deny.
In the article, Tanaka, however, denied knowing that any of the participants had affiliations with organized crime affiliations at the time of the proceedings. He said he discovered the underworld connection at a later date. On October 12, the day after the magazine hit the stands, he said that resigning from his post was not a possibility.
Two days after his appointment, it was revealed that the minister received 420,000 yen in political funding from a Chinese supporter — a violation of the Political Funds Control Law, which requires contributions be sourced only from Japanese individuals or enterprises.
Noda’s administration currently has an approval rating of approximately 20 percent.
Potentially putting more downward pressure on that figure was last week’s issue of tabloid Shukan Bunshun (Oct. 25), which reported that Minister of Finance, Koriki Jojima, received assistance from an Inagawa-kai front company during his 2009 election campaign in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Noda has said that there is a distinct possibility that he will dissolve the House of Representatives and hold a snap election before the end of the year if certain bills pass the Diet beforehand.