Japan's senior economic planner resigned Tuesday, the third Cabinet member to step down in less than two months in connection with a stock-trading scandal that has shaken public confidence in the government.
The resignation of Ken Harada was expected to put heavy pressure on several other Cabinet members, including Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, who have acknowledged links to the company at the center of the storm.Harada had led a parliamentary committee investigating the scandal until he became head of Japan's Economic Planning Agency in a Dec. 27 Cabinet shuffle.
In a televised news conference following his resignation, Harada acknowledged reports he had received regular political donations from Recruit Co. but denied any wrongdoing and said the company had "absolutely not asked for any favors" in return.
The national newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday that Harada had received $80 a month from Recruit for 14 years.
In the stock scandal, Recruit, an information conglomerate, made available hundreds of thousands of unlisted shares in a subsidiary, Recruit-Cosmos, to dozens of prominent people who made large profits after the stocks were listed for public trading and rose quickly in value.
Neither the donations nor the stock transactions were illegal of themselves, but questions of bribery, ethics and undue business influence on politicians were raised.
Only three days after Takeshita formed his new Cabinet in December, Justice Minister Takashi Hasegawa stepped down after it was disclosed that he also had received regular donations from Recruit.