June 6, 2016 / 10:52 AM / in 2 years

Tokyo governor apologizes for using funds for holidays, art; won't quit

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe apologized on Monday after a report found he had used political funds to pay for family vacations and artwork, but he refused to quit in a scandal that has cast another shadow over preparations for the 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe speaks during a news conference at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office in Tokyo, Japan, May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Masuzoe’s predecessor was forced to resign over a funding scandal just months after Tokyo won rights to host the Summer Games, and public anger has grown over Masuzoe’s failure to explain allegations he used political funds for private purposes.

The governor’s appointment of two lawyers to investigate his own conduct only fueled the outrage. On Monday, the lawyers concluded that while no laws were broken, there were several cases where Masuzoe’s use of political funds was inappropriate, including several family trips and purchases of artworks.

Masuzoe told a news conference that he accepted their report, and pledged to work his hardest to regain the trust of Tokyo’s residents.

“I deeply apologize for causing worries for the people of Tokyo,” Masuzoe said, bowing.

He said there was “no limit to his embarrassment” and he had reflected deeply, adding he would repay the funds from his own pocket and donate the art to places such as hospitals.

“I’ll make a fresh start so this won’t happen again,” he added. “As if I was reborn, I will work with all my strength for Tokyo.”

The official “handover” to Tokyo as Olympic host will take place at the end of the Rio Olympics in barely two months time.

Masuzoe’s predecessor, Naoki Inose, quit after being caught up in a funding scandal just months after Tokyo won the rights in 2013 to host the Olympics, delaying some early preparations for the games.

Masuzoe, an author and television personality, won election in 2014 with support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party and pledged his efforts to make the Olympics a success.

Tokyo, awarded hosting rights for the Olympics over Madrid and Istanbul due to a reputation for efficiency and low costs, has since faced numerous mishaps in its preparations, including scrapping plans for its signature stadium due to costs and its first logo due to plagiarism charges.

Its bid has also come under scrutiny after questions were raised about payments by the bid committee.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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