Page last updated at 06:09 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 07:09 UK

Japan officials admit taxi gifts

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Taxis at Tokyo International Airport
Officials received cash, drinks and food to use the same taxi firms

Almost 450 government bureaucrats in Japan have admitted receiving cash or other gifts and favours from taxi drivers used for official journeys.

It has been dubbed the "pub taxi scandal" because often cooler boxes with cold beers were provided in the back of cabs for the bureaucrats.

News that officials took inducements from taxi firms to use their services may not surprise many Japanese.

Bureaucrats are thought to be more powerful than politicians in Japan.

Some Japanese feel that makes them arrogant.

The details emerged after the opposition requested an investigation into the Finance Ministry.

Officials were found to have admitted receiving cash, beer, soft drinks and snacks in return for using the same cab firms again and again on journeys funded by the tax payer.

In one case a bureaucrat admitted receiving more than $20,000 (10,200) of cash and gift certificates over a five year period.

It is more bad news for a government which is deeply unpopular - polls suggest only one in five Japanese supports it.

The ministries claim that these are not bribes because the taxi drivers are not contracted by them, but by their staff.

But it will not help to dispel the suspicion that the officials running Japan feel themselves to be above the law.

Country profile: Japan
14 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific