A Japanese politician who claimed over 3 million yen (around US$30,000) in travel expenses without providing any supporting evidence has defended his actions in a dramatic and emotional display. Speaking to reporters at the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly on Tuesday, Ryutaro Nonomura cried loudly as he insisted that he had genuinely made all the trips claimed for, and that the travel was for work purposes.
Nonomura faced criticism last week when it was revealed that he had claimed for 195 long-distance return tickets by rail during the financial year 2013-14. He did not provide any receipts for the journeys, or any evidence that he had been carrying out official activity. The transportation expenses claims included 106 visits to Kinosaki Onsen, a hot spring town 139km from his hometown.
In the interview, Nonomura appears to be repeatedly overcome with emotion, crying loudly and at one point yelling at a reporter: “You don’t understand!” and insisting that he wanted to “change this society!”
Nonomura, who serves on the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly, claimed transport expenses for multiple trips to four different locations in the financial year 2013-14. The 195 journeys he claimed for included 106 trips from his home in Nishinomiya City to Kinosaki Onsen, near Toyooka, and 62 return tickets to Sayo, another town in Hyogo Prefecture.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Nonomura insisted, “I went to all the places [claimed for].” He also made a number of curious outbursts, at one point yelling, “Ageing population isn’t only a problem in our prefecture!”
When asked why he was unable to provide evidence for the journeys made, the politician said he didn’t know that receipts could be issued by automatic ticketing machines. He didn’t recall the route he took to each place, he said, nor the prices of the tickets. Questioned on the purpose of the trips, Nonomura claimed he had a reason for not making the details public, and that he had promised the people involved that it would remain a secret.
The prefectural office concluded that Nonomura’s actions were not illegal. Nonomura, however, admitted that he had not provided enough evidence for the claims, and said he would look again at his expenses claims since he assumed office in 2011. It’s not clear though if he will return any money – and if so, how much.
▼ Caution: may induce cringing.
We can’t help thinking that, even if this was all just some terrible misunderstanding, perhaps Mr Nonomura could do with a break…