|Japan's State Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs, Fiscal and Economic Policy Satoshi Arai meets the press at the official residence of new Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo, capital of Japan, June 8, 2010. (Xinhua/Ji Chunpeng)
TOKYO, June 9 (Xinhua) -- New Japanese Cabinet minister Satoshi Arai on Wednesday defended his now defunct support body's registering of an acquaintance's condominium in Tokyo as its main office, while opposition lawmakers are calling for his resignation over what they deem to fraudulent expenses claims.
Arai, who was named State Minister for National Policy in Prime Minister Naoto Kan's newly formed Cabinet on Tuesday, told reporters the registration has posed "no problem."
"I checked the accounting and found no problem. I thought my examination alone wouldn't be sufficient, so I had the party check it, and again no wrongdoing was confirmed," Arai told reporters, declining to say exactly how he had reached his conclusion.
Arai also said that the Ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has conducted a full examination into the affair and also concluded that everything is above board.
However Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said the registration has never been problematic as expenses have been specified, although suggested that investigations may be ongoing and a final decision on the matter had yet to be made.
"After further investigation, the DPJ will decide what to do in the matter," said the top government spokesperson.
Despite Arai maintaining his innocence, opposition parties have taken exception to the practice and have voiced their disparagement, calling for Arai to step down and for the new prime minister to be held accountable.
"Of course, he should resign. Prime Minister Naoto Kan should also be held responsible for appointing him," said opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba.
Ishiba has equated Arai's alleged expense scandal to similar improprieties that led to two LDP lawmakers resigning in 2007.
Arai's policy secretary, central to the expense debate, had served as the chief accountant of Arai's former support organization until it was disbanded in September last year, when the DPJ swept to power.
According to political sources close to the matter, the organization shifted its main office from Yokohama to the acquaintance's home in Fuchu, western Tokyo, in November 2002.
The organization's political fund reports show that it spent approximately 27.41 million yen (300,000 U.S. dollars) in personnel expenses, about 4.63 million yen (50,600 U.S. dollars) in equipment and office supply expenses and some 10.13 million yen (110,800 U.S. dollars) in other office expenses from 2003 to 2008.
Arai's acquaintance maintains he has never received any rent for the condominium.
Three agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministers in the previous LDP-led administration, namely the late Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who committed suicide over his involvement and Norihiko Akagi and Seiichi Ota, were forced to resign over similar funding scandals in 2007.
The newly launched administration of Prime Minister Kan has vowed to chart a course free of the "money and politics" scandals that plagued Kan's predecessor Yukio Hatoyama and former Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.
This matter, however, could deal a serious blow to the DPJ's efforts to clean up the party's image, as they look for success in the July upper house elections and have called for trust and belief from the Japanese people in their short-lived bid to make financial improprieties in government a thing of the past.