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Two Japan ministers acknowledge political fund improprieties

[TOKYO] Two Japanese cabinet ministers acknowledged political fund-related improprieties, adding to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's headaches, but both said they intended to stay in their jobs.

The revelations come after two other ministers, including trade and industry minister Yuko Obuchi, quit over the dubious use of political funds last week, hitting public support for the Abe's government.

Ms Obuchi's successor, Yoichi Miyazawa, also came under scrutiny after acknowledging last week that an aide spent 18,230 yen at an S&M-themed bar, and that he himself held 600 shares in Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant that his ministry oversees.

Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki told a news conference, held shortly after midnight on Tuesday, that his late wife incorrectly reported party fees and other expenditures as costs for holding new-year parties in his support group's income and expense reports.

Mr Mochizuki said there were no illegal expenditures involved. "Various problems are piling up at the Environment Ministry. I would like to do my utmost to solve those problems," he said.

Income and expenditure reports in question are for 2008 and 2009, and 6.6 million yen (US$61,167) in expenditure for party fees and other expenses were reported as costs for holding new-year parties, media said.

Also, a political group affiliated with Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of women's empowerment, received 600,000 yen in donations in 2011 and 2012 from a company that was fined for tax evasion, Japanese media reported on Monday.

Ms Arimura said that the donations were made before the tax evasion case, and that the money had already been returned, public broadcaster NHK said.