Japan Trade Minister Obuchi to resign over funds scandal

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TOKYO (Oct 18): In a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese trade and industry minister Yuko Obuchi plans to resign following reports that political groups supporting her misused political funds, Japanese media reported on Saturday.

Obuchi, a 40-year-old mother of two and the daughter of a former prime minister, has told people close to Abe she plans to quit and will discuss the matter when Abe returns on Saturday from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy, the Nikkei newspaper said.

Regarded as a possible future contender to become Japan's first woman premier, Obuchi apologised at a parliamentary panel on Thursday after the reports of misuse of funds, possibly violating electoral and political funding laws, hit the news-stands.

Abe tapped Obuchi less than two months ago to head the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. She was one of five women the premier chose in a cabinet reshuffle in an effort to bolster his popularity by showing his commitment to promoting women.