Japanese official commits suicide, central bank head offers to quit

TOKYO (AP) — A top Finance Ministry official hanged himself Thursday, becoming the fourth high-ranking Japanese bureaucrat to commit suicide in a widening scandal over corruption in high places.
Yoshio Sugiyama, 46, a deputy chief in the ministry’s powerful banking bureau, killed himself in his Tokyo apartment, said Naoto Fujii, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
National broadcaster NHK reported that Sugiyama had once worked with two ministry officials who were arrested in January on suspicion of accepting $37,500 worth of entertainment from banks in exchange for tips about “surprise” inspections.
His death is the latest shock in a damaging scandal centering on the chronic collusion between bureaucrats and the businesses they regulate. The investigation has touched several aspects of government, including the previously untainted Japanese central bank.
Faith in the “bank of banks,” as the Bank of Japan is known among Japanese, was severely shaken by Wednesday’s arrest of Yasuyuki Yoshizawa, 42, chief of the bank’s capital markets division.
Bank of Japan chief Yasuo Matsushita offered to resign to take responsibility for the events leading to the arrest of Yoshizawa, who was suspected of accepting lavish entertainment in return for leaking sensitive information to two private banks.
With the scandal now marring the central bank’s formerly spotless reputation, fears are growing over whether it will further hobble Japan’s stagnant economy and possibly hinder ambitious plans to ease financial regulations.
The three other officials who had killed themselves were all facing questioning over alleged acceptance of bribes.