The Finance Ministry’s highest-ranking bureaucrat denied allegations in a weekly magazine that he had sexually harassed a female reporter and said he was preparing to file a lawsuit claiming defamation.
The Finance Ministry on April 16 released the results of its investigation into claims that Administrative Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda made sexually suggestive comments while conversing with the reporter at a bar where he offered to meet her for an interview.
Fukuda, questioned by deputy vice minister Koji Yano about the article, told him, “I never had such an exchange with the female reporter.”
Fukuda said he had no intention to resign his post.
However, the Finance Ministry said it would enlist an outside lawyer to head an investigation into the allegations and also requested the cooperation of media organizations belonging to the press club attached to the ministry so that their female contingent could be questioned.
According to the Shukan Shincho report, Fukuda made repeated suggestive comments, such as asking to touch the reporter’s breasts.
The magazine said the reporter had sought the interview in connection with recent revelations about documents falsified by the Finance Ministry over the sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen at a mind-boggling discount.
On the afternoon of April 13, it released an audio recording online of what it claimed was the conversation between Fukuda and the reporter.
Fukuda denied even having met with the reporter at the bar, and also said he could not be certain if the woman in the recording was the reporter in question.
The Shukan Shincho report alleged that Fukuda made similar sexually suggestive comments to other female reporters.
In response to the Finance Ministry’s investigation, Fukuda said he enjoyed visiting bars where hostesses interacted with the customers and the banter with them.
“I don’t think I ever made any remarks to female reporters that could make them uncomfortable and be considered a form of sexual harassment,” he added.
Fukuda said he was preparing to file a lawsuit against the publisher of Shukan Shincho alleging libel and defamation.