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Japanese minister resigns over past ties to organized crime

TOKYO — Japan’s justice minister resigned Tuesday after an uproar over his past ties to members of organized crime, putting further pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to call national elections.

Keishu Tanaka, who was appointed just three weeks ago in a Cabinet reshuffle, resigned for health reasons, the government’s top spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, said at a news conference Tuesday. But Tanaka’s resignation came after days of haranguing from opposition lawmakers over a report said he had been associated with a Japanese organized crime syndicate.

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Tanaka acknowledged that he had helped with the wedding of an organized crime member three decades ago and that he had attended a party hosted by a mobster boss. But he initially refused to resign, saying he had been unaware of their mob connections at the time.

Tanaka had also been accused of accepting donations from a foreign resident, in violation of Japanese law. Amid the accusations, he checked into a Tokyo hospital Friday, complaining of chest pains, according to media reports. He was discharged Monday.

Connections between Japan’s notorious gangsters and parts of Japan’s political and business elite were not uncommon in the past, though a recent crackdown has made such links far riskier.

Tanaka’s resignation is a significant setback for Noda, who has tried to maintain a hold on power for his governing Democratic Party despite languishing poll ratings.

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