Ex-lawmaker’s indictment reflects recent moral laxity of ruling parties

It is totally unacceptable for a person in a key government post to mediate loans at the request of specific companies and individuals, receiving rewards in return. He must personally clarify the entire picture of such wrongdoing.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has indicted without arrest four people, including Kiyohiko Toyama, a former House of Representatives lawmaker from ruling coalition partner Komeito, who served as state finance minister, on charges of illegally brokering loans with companies and individuals from Japan Finance Corp. (JFC), a state-affiliated lender, in violation of the Money Lending Business Law.

Last year and this year, Toyama allegedly acted as an intermediary on 111 occasions without registering as a moneylender, through such measures as introducing JFC officials in charge to companies and individuals seeking special loans to fight the novel coronavirus.

According to investigative sources, Toyama has admitted to the charges.

In brokering the loans, Toyama is said to have urged the JFC to preferentially conclude contracts with these companies and individuals. Many small and midsize companies and sole proprietorships, whose sales are falling due to the coronavirus pandemic, are struggling with insufficient funds. Business operators and others who were waiting earnestly for loans for that purpose must feel betrayed by the irregularities.

Toyama is believed to have received more than ¥10 million in rewards for brokering such loans and used part of the money to pay for food and drinks at exclusive clubs in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

During a state of emergency declared for the pandemic, Toyama was found to have visited a Ginza club late at night, among other activities. In February this year, he resigned from the Diet after it was revealed that his fund management organization had previously spent money on food and drinks at a hostess bar and elsewhere.

The lack of a sense of ethics is egregious. Illegal loan mediation also took place during his tenure as state finance minister. The Finance Ministry supervises government-affiliated financial institutions, including the JFC. His actions were inevitably seen as an abuse of his key government position.

One of the other three who have been indicted without arrest is a former policy secretary to former Komeito lower house member Masataka Ota, who was allegedly involved in illegal loan brokering. Although verifying the allegations of the incident will be left to the trial, Komeito should fulfill its accountability as soon as possible.

There has been no end to scandals involving the ruling parties over politics and money. A three-year prison sentence has been finalized for former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who handed out cash mainly to local lawmakers in the recent House of Councillors election. Former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara was fined for election violations. Former agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa is also on trial for accepting bribes.

Aren’t the ruling parties complacent? The longer lawmakers belonging to ruling parties stay in power, the more influence they accrue and the more people seek favors from them. But that’s all the more reason that they must have the integrity to strictly control themselves.

The ruling parties also lack an attitude of sincerely answering the public’s questions. They must be aware that their undisciplined attitude has caused public distrust in politics. They need to straighten up and fly right.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 29, 2021.