- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

TOKYO, March 7 (UPI) — Tokyo authorities arrested Takanori Sakai, a member of Japan's parliament, the Diet, Friday for allegedly taking payoffs from companies, and trying to destroy the evidence.

Sakai, 55, was arrested after the House of Representatives, at the request of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, stripped him of immunity. He was also expelled from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party which earlier rejected his request to resign from his post as chairman of the House Health, Labor and Welfare Committee.

Sakai's two secretaries had already been detained Tuesday on suspicion of failing to report some 12 million yen (about $100,000) received over several years from several manpower companies. Sakai allegedly at one point suggested to one company president that he continue paying financial contributions under the table, in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

Sakai reportedly instructed his secretaries to destroy evidence and in announcing the arrest authorities said that Sakai's office was burning or shredding documents extensively or erasing computer data until the last minute at his parliamentary office and elsewhere.

Prime Minister Koizumi admitted the arrest was a blow to the ruling party, which is already clouded by a scandal involving the current minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Tadamori Oshima.

Sakai is the 20th member of the Diet to be arrested after having parliamentary immunity stripped and his arrest is expected to heat up debates in and out of the parliament over politics and money.

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