Senior party member quits over bribery scandal

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The Independent Online

A senior member of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's ruling party submitted his resignation from Parliament today to take responsibility for a bribery scandal, an official said.

A senior member of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's ruling party submitted his resignation from Parliament today to take responsibility for a bribery scandal, an official said.

Masakuni Murakami, 68, delivered his resignation to upper house speaker Yutaka Inoue following allegations that the Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker had illicit ties with a small-business cooperative, said parliamentary official Katsushi Kumagai.

Murakami's resignation will be submitted to the current session of Parliament, where it must be approved by a majority of legislators.

Murakami, who was to be questioned in Parliament next week over the ties, had assumed the post as leader of upper house LDP lawmakers in July 1999.

He reportedly had long-standing ties with nationwide small-business cooperative KSD, whose founder, Tadao Koseki, was indicated last month for misusing the group's financial resources.

Koseki allegedly funneled a total of 1.5 billion yen (US$12.6 million) in political contributions through a KSD affiliate to the LDP between 1995 and 1999, according to news reports.

Murakami is believed to have deepened his ties with KSD in 1992, when the affiliate campaigned in support of his election to the upper house. It was not immediately clear if he received money directly from KSD.

The KSD scandal has rocked Mori's already wobbly administration, which has seen its public approval ratings fall to just nine percent in recent polls.

Takao Koyama, another LDP lawmaker, was arrested January 16 on suspicion that he received a bribe totaling several millions of yen (tens of thousands of dollars) from KSD.

Koyama, formerly a secretary to Murakami, has denied the allegations.

Fukushiro Nukaga, state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, has acknowledged that he received 15 million yen (US$126,050) in political contributions from KSD, but said he later returned the money.

Nukaga at that time denied media speculation that he gave inappropriate political assistance to KSD.

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