Friday, July 11, 2014 11:24 am
A provincial Japanese politician, who was filmed crying like a toddler while trying to explain his profligate use of public funds, quit his post Friday as he was embroiled deeper in a corruption scandal.
Middle-aged assemblyman Ryutaro Nonomura became an Internet sensation last week when he was filmed wailing and banging his fists on a desk as tears stream down his face at a press conference.
The regional assembly in Hyogo, western Japan, accepted the 47-year-old’s resignation on Friday, an official said.
“Political parties in the assembly filed a criminal complaint against the assembly member,” said Eiji Kurita, from the assembly’s secretariat.
He allegedly spent the money in travel expenses on 195 trips in one year, including 106 visits to the same hot spring resort, but he failed to produce a receipt or a report on them.
The assembly has been swamped with about 4,000 complaints from residents who demanded Nonomura come clean about his expenditures and repay the money, according to media reports.
In trying to explain how he spent the money at a news conference on July 1 in Kobe, Hyogo’s main city, the middle-aged lawmaker wailed uncontrollably and banged his fists on the table.
He shouted almost incoherent excuses in between gut-wrenching sobs, punctuated by the long intakes of breath necessary to power the next outburst.
Looped footage of the press conference has drawn laughter and unfavourable comments from guests at television talk shows as it was repeated over and over. Social media users have rapidly spread the images worldwide while comedians at home mocked his act.
Nonomura has refused to talk to the media after the now famous press conference.
The assembly secretariat has expanded its investigations into about eight million yen ($80,000) which Nonomura has allegedly spent in travel expenses on 345 trips he made in the past three years, according to media reports.
He has reportedly told officials that he had “deleted all data” on the trips from his personal computer and that he could not remember them at all.
The episode has also shocked the national political scene where corruption has been a perennial issue.
“Isn’t he rare for presenting such a big topic of interest,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, told a regular briefing Friday.
“I think he should fulfil his responsibility for explaining his case before leaving his post.”