Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita picked a veteran jurist Friday to succeed Justice Minister Takashi Hasegawa, who resigned earlier in the day amid the nation's worst political scandal in more than a decade.
The government announced the appointment of Masami Takatsuji, 78, a former Supreme Court justice, to become Japan's third justice minister in less than a week."I have just accepted the offer from Mr. Takeshita and I have no special comment on the scandal at the moment," said Takatsuji, who served as a Supreme Court justice from 1973 to 1980. "I have nothing to do with the scandal."
Hasegawa, the second Cabinet minister to resign since the scandal broke six months ago, quit his post after admitting he had accepted political contributions from a company embroiled in the so-called "Recruit-gate" afffair.
Newspapers said Hasegawa received a total of $48,000 over the last 12 years from Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of major information and publishing firm Recruit Co.
Recruit Cosmos was accused of selling its unlisted shares to prominent politicians and business leaders at bargain prices in 1986, allowing the buyers to make huge profits.
"I keenly felt political responsibility for the case," Hasegawa told a televised news conference after his resignation. "It is deeply regrettable that I, as a Cabinet minister in charge of investigating the scandal, had received political donations from Recruit Cosmos Co."
Hasegawa's tenure as Justice Minister was the shortest on record for a Cabinet minister in postwar years.
Takeshita appointed Hasegawa to the post when he reorganized his Cabinet Tuesday in a move to bolster an administration shaken by the scandal, which already had cost Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa his job earlier in the month.
Takeshita's top aide, Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi who was retained in the Cabinet reshuffle, also admitted his political support group received donations from Recruit Cosmos but said the organization stopped accepting funds from the company after the scandal surfaced last summer.
Private secretaries of Takeshita, his predecessor Yasuhiro Nakasone, and Shintaro Abe, who is regarded as the top contender to succeed Takeshita as next prime minister, also were named among the buyers of Recruit Cosmos Shares.