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Thursday, February 19, 1998 Published at 10:11 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Japanese lawmaker commits suicide over financial scandal
image: [ Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Shokei Arai, left, speaks to the press about the alleged scandal. ]
Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Shokei Arai, left, speaks to the press about the alleged scandal.

A Japanese politician, Shokei Arai, has hanged himself in a Tokyo hotel room, hours before his expected arrest in connection with a continuing corruption scandal.

He was a former finance ministry official and legislator for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and was facing police investigation on suspicion of having demanded guarantees of profits on an account he held at Japanese brokerage firm, Nikko securities.

Such a guarantee from the brokerage house would have involved discretionary transactions or loss compensation - both of which are illegal under Japanese law.

Mr Arai had insisted on his innocence and refused to resign from the Liberal Democratic Party. A vote in Parliament to deprive Mr Arai of his constitutional immunity from arrest was imminent.

Several other Japanese government officials are being investigated on suspicion of accepting bribes from financial institutions.

The BBC's correspondent in Tokyo reported that the suicide comes as a shock to the people of Japan, who are trying to make sense of a number of scandals that are plaguing the elite Ministry of Finance.

National broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News reported that Arai's wife discovered his body in a room in the Pacific Hotel in central Tokyo.

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