NTT chief denies seeking gov't favors as hospitality scandal rolls on

©Kyodo News

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. President Jun Sawada on Monday denied seeking favors at dinners with communications ministry executives and lawmakers when he fronted parliament to answer questions about a scandal involving the Japanese telecom giant and the ministry.

Sawada, who had been reported by a weekly magazine as having treated senior officials of the ministry to lavish meals, apologized when appearing as a witness at a session of the House of Councillors' Budget Committee. But he stressed, "I have not made any request or talked about receiving any favors."

Sawada explained he regularly hosts social gatherings to exchange views with lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties and experts from various fields.

He shed no light on whether the lawmakers involved include Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga or Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda, arguing that disclosing such information would "affect our business."

The ministry said it will investigate 144 of its officials over whether they have ever been wined and dined by people involved with entities the ministry supervises. Takeda said the ministry will set up a third-party panel this week to look into the scandal.

The moves come after a number of ministry officials were reprimanded for violating the central government's ethics code for officials by accepting expensive meals from officials of Tohokushinsha Film Corp., a satellite broadcaster that employs Suga's eldest son, Seigo Suga.

"I am very sorry that my family's involvement led to violations of the ethics law," Suga told the Diet committee session.

Tohokushinsha Film President Shinya Nakajima, who also spoke before the committee, apologized for undermining the public's trust in government by hosting "inappropriate dinners with those at the ministry."

He also apologized for obtaining from the ministry a license for "The Cinema 4K" channel based on false information the company submitted stating that it is less than 20 percent foreign-owned.

The Japanese government will revoke the license as the company admitted it is more than 20 percent, above the threshold required by law for the license to be awarded, with Tohokushinsha Film blaming the oversight on a calculation error made when applying in 2016.