Ex-Ministry Official Sought to Place Peer at Head of Company

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Ministry in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The former vice minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism asked a private company whose business requires approvals from the ministry to promote a former ministry official to its president, it has been learned.

Masaru Honda, 69, the former vice transport minister and current chairman of subway operator Tokyo Metro Co., had urged Airport Facilities Co. to appoint Katsuhiro Yamaguchi, a former ministry official and the current executive vice president of the company.

Admitting the allegations to The Yomiuri Shimbun, Honda said, “It was a thoughtless act. I regret what I did.”

Airport Facilities is a listed company that operates Haneda Airport buildings and other facilities. Prior to current President and CEO Toshiaki Norita, 65, who came from Japan Airlines, the company had seven consecutive presidents who were former transport ministry officials.

Honda met Norita and other officials in December last year and asked them to promote Yamaguchi, 63, former head of the East Japan Civil Aviation Bureau of the ministry, to president. However, Airport Facilities refused, saying that it would be problematic for corporate governance.

The National Public Service Law strictly regulates intervention by central government ministries and agencies in the hiring by other entities of officials leaving the bureaucracy. However, there is no system to prohibit former bureaucrats from intervening to secure positions for former officials. “I went to convey the request of several former transport ministry officials,” Honda told The Yomiuri Shimbun on Thursday. “But I didn’t pressure them in an authoritarian manner.”

“I took it as Honda having strong feelings because former transport ministry officials have traditionally filled key positions at the company,” Norita said Thursday.