TOKYO, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Akira Amari, Japan's economic minister who has led the ambitious program to revitalize the country's economy, resigned Thursday over a corruption scandal.
Amari is the fourth member of the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to resign after allegations of misconduct, threatening to set back the bold economic program that has been dubbed "Abenomics." The program includes radical quantitative easing, large-scale government spending, inflation targeting and other economic measures introduced to reverse the economic decline that has plagued Japan since 1997.
Akira was Japan's representative in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, a major trade agreement designed to counter Chinese financial influence in the region, and is regarded as the most knowledgeable member of Abe's cabinet regarding the accord. The signing ceremony for the accord, which was to include Amari, is scheduled for next week in New Zealand.
Amari's downfall comes after a Japanese magazine reported last week that he and his staff were given cash and gifts totaling $100,000 by a construction company seeking help in resolving a dispute over a public housing project. Amari countered that the money was properly reported and denied acting illegally, although he acknowledged that a gift to a secretary from the company was not declared. A follow-up article in the magazine on Thursday revealed other unrecorded payments were made by a company official and pocketed by Amari.
"I feel responsible for appointing him, and I apologize to the Japanese people for this matter," Abe said after Amari's resignation. He immediately promoted Nobuteru Ishihara, environmental minister, to replace Amari as economic minister.