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MoF fries in "no pan shabu shabu"

Japan's public are howling for more blood as scandal after scandal rocks Tokyo's bureaucratic elite. Practices silently condoned for years have hit the headlines. The biggest loser is the once-mighty ministry of finance which may no longer call the shots on fiscal and monetary policy, or parachute its old boys into bank chairmanships. Andrew Horvat reports

Every time the expression "hot pot without panties" is repeated in the Japanese media these days, the reputation of Japan's ministry of finance goes down a notch. Visits by MoF officials to the Lo Lan Chinese restaurant in Shinjuku, an entertainment district in Tokyo, were one small part of disclosures of unhealthy links between the MoF and the Japanese financial industry earlier this year.

All the same, allegations that Koichi Miyagawa, the MoF's chief bank inspector had spent some time with the ladies at Lo Lan - known in Japanese financial circles for their willingness to remove their underwear for a ¥10,000 ($80) tip - were to have far-reaching consequences.

On January 26, for the first time in 50 years, a phalanx of public prosecutors climbed the well-worn stone stairs of the MoF's headquarters. They had come to arrest Miyagawa and his deputy Toshimi Taniuchi on suspicion of having accepted the equivalent of tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from four Japanese banks in the form of lavish entertainment. In less than three days, finance minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka would resign, two of his civil servant vice-ministers would be sacked, and the body of one of Miyagawa's colleagues would be found hanging from a curtain rail in an apartment used by MoF bureaucrats.

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