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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Japan acts to curb influence peddling
Muneo Suzuki, arrested in June over a bribery scandal
A series of scandals have dogged the ruling party
The Japanese Government has created a set of guidelines to stop politicians from attempting to influence bureaucrats for their own personal benefit.

Prime Minister Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi wants to clean up politics
The adoption of new rules follows a rash of scandals in Japan in which politicians, lured by bribes or the promise of votes, have tried to pressure officials to shape policy or award funding.

The guidelines stipulate that a bureaucrat should report any attempt at arm twisting to their superiors and keep detailed written records of conversations with politicians.

However, it was not clear how effective the rules would prove. They do not specify what action should be taken if influence peddling was established to have taken place.

Unhealthy ties

"These guidelines are a step forward," said Misako Kaji, a spokeswoman for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Recent influence peddling scandals
July: Health minister Kazuaki Miyaji accused of getting supporter's grandson into medical school
July: Two Foreign Ministry officials arrested in bid-rigging scandal
June: Muneo Suzuki arrested over alleged timber company bribe
May: Former upper house leader Yutaka Inoue resigns over secretary's construction bribe scandal

"They will help preserve appropriate contacts between politicians and government officials. We hope to see a difference now."

This month two Foreign Ministry officials and three executives from Japanese trading house Mitsui and Co were arrested over alleged bid-rigging in connection with plans to build a power plant on a Russian-held island.

And last month senior politician Muneo Suzuki was arrested, accused of accepting a $40,000 bribe from a timber company in return for lenient treatment in an illegal logging case.

Mr Suzuki, a former power-broker for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was portrayed in the media as the archetypal string-puller.

He is accused of having used his influence to ensure overseas contracts went to his friends in the construction industry - traditional supporters of the LDP.

Prime Minister Koizumi, who came to power promising to clean up politics, has suffered from such scandals by association.

See also:

19 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
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29 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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