TOKYO, Feb. 19 -- Police say maverick Japanese government lawmaker Shokei Arai ('Sho-kay Ah-RIGH'), who was facing arrest on corruption charges, has killed himself at a Tokyo hotel by strangling himself with a bathrobe. Osaka-born Arai, a 50-year-old naturalized Japanese citizen of South Korean descent, hanged himself today at the Meridien Pacific as the Diet, Japan's parliament, was preparing to approve a request by prosecutors to arrest him. Arai, a representative for the Liberal Democratic Party in the lower House of Representative in the Diet, was suspected of demanding that major brokerage house Nikko Securities Co. guarantee profits on an account he held. In a new twist to the Japanese government's fight against corruption, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Tuesday sought an arrest warrant for Arai. Arai is the fourth person to commit suicide in a batch of recent payoff scandals involving Japan's top financial institutions, such as Nikko and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, and the Finance Ministry and Japan Highway Public Corp. The lawmaker's alleged request to the brokerage house in order to boost his own profits was illegal under Japan's Securities and Exchange Law. To execute the arrest, prosecutors had sought the approval of the lower house of the Diet. In a rare statement by Japan's top prosecutor on the death of a crime suspect, Public Prosecutor General Takaharu Doi today expressed grave regret at 'the unexpected death' and offered condolences to Arai's family. The unusual step of seeking the arrest of a sitting lawmaker came only two days after Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto warned the ax would fall on corrupt officials.
He promised to push through wide-ranging administrative reforms. On the same day Hashimoto issued his warning, the Finance Ministry dismissed two bank inspectors who were indicted on charges of receiving bribes from banks in exchange for tip-offs about pending inspections by the ministry. Arai, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, was suspected of receiving profits of more than 29 million yen ($230,000) from Nikko. Prosecutors say the 29 million yen is part of 40.9 million yen ($324, 000) in profits Arai has publicly admitted to receiving from the brokerage house, but he denied any wrongdoing. A number of Nikko officials, including former managing director Hiroyuki Hamahira, from whom Arai is suspected of having demanded the stock gain, have already been arrested on suspicion of making illegal payments to a corporate racketeer. Last month, a Finance Ministry official implicated in the latest corruption scandal involving the once-inviolable government department killed himself after his section was named as one in which officials had taken bribes. Opposition parties were preparing to submit to the lower house a motion demanding Arai resign as a lawmaker if he had decided not to step down. Arai had rejected his own party's repeated requests that he leave the party. Aside from the arrest warrant, Arai is said to have received profits of some 280 million yen ($2.225 million) through discretionary trading at Nikko between 1984 and 1989, but a three-year statute of limitations for prosecution for the deals expired. A graduate of the top-flight Tokyo University, Arai worked for Nippon Steel Corp. before joining the Finance Ministry in 1973. He was elected to the lower house for the first time in 1986. In 1994, Arai left the LDP and later joined the now-defunct New Frontier Party. He rejoined the LDP in July last year. In 1994, Arai left the LDP. He later joined the now-defunct New Frontier Party and then rejoined the LDP in July 1997. He wrote a book entitled 'Erotic Politics' which includes a chapter titled, 'Men with Death Wishes.' At a news conference Wednesday evening, Arai told journalists, 'I won't be able to appear before you again.' ---
Copyright 1998 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---