The leader and founder of minor opposition party Minna no Tō (Your Party) Yoshimi Watanabe is set to step down from the party’s leadership as he is currently caught in a scandal that shows him having 800 million yen worth of unregistered loans from a business tycoon. Watanabe expressed his intention to step down as the party’s leader on April 7 over the hundreds of millions of yen he allegedly borrowed from the chairman of a cosmetics company, all the while denying that he did anything illegal.
“I have caused trouble to supporters, Diet members and those associated with Your Party,” the 62-year-old Watanabe declared at a news conference in Tokyo. He made clear, however, that the 800 million yen (around $7.8 million) he borrowed from Yoshiaki Yoshida, chairman of the Tokyo-based cosmetics outfit DHC Corp., was for personal use. As such, he did not declare it in his political funds reports – for Watanabe, there was “nothing illegal” that was done. But critics will point to the timing of the loans – Watanabe borrowed 300 million yen in June 2010, a month before the Upper House election, and 500 million yen in November 2012, a month before the Lower House election. He has a long way to go if he wants to convince others that the funds were for “personal use”.
Watanabe tried to account for the money as best he could in the news conference, saying that he used the money to fund activities related to elections and expanding the strength of his party. He said that out of the 800 million, he loaned 250 million yen to Your Party, funding its campaign activities in order to bolster the party’s strength. “This loan was listed in the party’s political funds report for fiscal 2012, so it was processed properly in light of the Political Funds Control Law,” he said. When asked why he did not enter an account of the funds in his election campaign funds report, Watanabe reiterated that, “There was no need to list it since I did not borrow the money for my election campaign.” Watanabe also said that all the money has been returned to Yoshida on April 7, this according to him was the first step to “restoring public trust.”