(From Reuters)

Japan’s economy minister Akira Amari said Thursday he was stepping down over graft allegations, dealing a major blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who faces a key leadership vote later this year.

Lawmaker Nobuteru Ishihara, 58, who has served in several previous cabinet positions, will replace Amari.

Akira Amari
 “Considering my responsibility as a member of parliament… my duty as a cabinet member and pride as a politician, I will resign my post as of today,” the 66-year-old Amari told a packed Tokyo press briefing, choking back tears.

The surprise resignation comes a week after the veteran politician was hit by claims in a weekly magazine that he and his staff had improperly accepted a 12 million yen ($101,000) bribe from a construction firm.

Nobuteru Ishihara

On Thursday, Amari — also a key face in Abe’s bid to power the economy, dubbed Abenomics — rejected claims he pocketed the money.

He admitted envelopes filled with cash had arrived at his office, but claimed to have ordered his secretary to deal with some of the money according to political donation rules. Read More

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