Japanese minister to resign over secret loan

RICHARD LLOYD PARRY

Tokyo

A bitter political dispute about the legal status of Japanese religious groups will claim a high-powered victim today when the Justice Minister, Tomoharu Tazawa, resigns after allegations concerning a secret loan from a powerful Buddhist organisation.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported on Friday that Mr Tazawa, a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member of the upper house of the Japanese Diet, had done a back-room deal with political opponents to avoid being questioned about the 200,000 yen (pounds 1,250) loan from Rissho Koseikai, a lay organisation which has links with the LDP. In return for dropping their questions, the Justice Minister allegedly promised members of Reform of Heisei, an upper house grouping which includes members of the opposition Shinshinto (New Frontier Party), that he would resist government proposals to revise the Religious Corporation Law, which is being debated in the lower house of the Diet.

Mr Tazawa denied the charges on Friday, as an investigation was launched on the orders of the Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama. Over the weekend, however, it became clear that he could not survive. He will be replaced by Hiroshi Miyazawa, another LDP member of the upper house, and the brother of the former Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa.

More than 180,000 religious groups are registered under the Religious Corporation Law, which grants them lucrative exemptions from income and property tax. The coalition government, in which Mr Tazawa's LDP is the leading partner, has been considering its revision for six months, since the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, universally attributed to the apocalyptic Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which became rich through property deals and donations.

But the proposed legislation has provoked strong opposition from Buddhist and Christian organisations, and has become the focus of a party political row.

The wealth and grass-roots influence acquired by Japan's religious groups also allow them to wield considerable power among voters. Shinshinto, which stands a good chance of defeating the LDP in the next general election, derives huge electoral benefits from its association with Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist organisation supported by 8 million families nationwide.

Many Shinshinto politicians view the proposed revisions to the law as an attack on their core supporters - hence their eagerness to enlist the sympathies of Mr Tazawa.

Despite denying allegations of a secret deal, Mr Tazawa admits the loan, which he has repaid in full. However, he broke Cabinet regulations which require ministers to disclose assets and loans.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
news
News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Recruitment Genius: Brand Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you wish to be part of an exciting journey ...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Anna Woodward: Invoicing Clerk

£21,500: Anna Woodward: The Accounts Payable team for this group is recruiting...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower