x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Former Japanese finance minister found dead

The former minister, who stepped down after appearing to be drunk at a news conference, has been found dead in his home.

TOKYO // A former Japanese finance minister, who stepped down after appearing to be drunk at an overseas news conference, was found dead in his home today, police said. The cause of Shoichi Nakagawa's death was under investigation, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo police said. His body was found by his wife in the bedroom of their Tokyo home, she said on condition of anonymity. The 56-year-old Mr Nakagawa caused an uproar when he appeared to be drunk at a news conference during a meeting of Group of Seven financial leaders in Rome in February. International news programmes repeatedly played footage of Mr Nakagawa slurring his speech and looking sleepy. More odd behaviour followed when he visited a museum at the Vatican after the news conference. He touched exhibits and set off an alarm after entering an off-limits area. The trip was widely seen as a major embarrassment for the Japanese government. Mr Nakagawa stepped down as finance minister shortly afterward, denying he had been drunk and blaming cold medicine. But the opposition demanded his resignation. Mr Nakagawa had been a long-time politician from the northernmost island of Hokkaido with the Liberal Democratic Party, which had ruled Japan almost continuously for the last half-century. He lost his seat in parliament in the August 30 nationwide elections in which the Liberal Democrats lost to the Democrats, who now rule Japan in a coalition. The former prime minister, Taro Aso, praised Mr Nakagawa for helping the country tackle its worst recession since World War II. "I'm in such a state of shock right now that I cannot put it into words," Mr Aso said. "I offer my deepest condolences." Mr Nakagawa had once been a rising star in the party, seen as a potential prime minister candidate. He held several cabinet-level positions including agriculture minister and trade minister before being tapped as finance minister in September 2008. His career - and untimely death - followed in the footsteps of his father Ichiro Nakagawa, who served in parliament for two decades. His father committed suicide in 1983 at a hotel in Hokkaido when he was 57 years old. Stunned colleagues said that Nakagawa appeared to be in good health recently.

*AP