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Japan: Internal Affairs Minister Denies Association with Cryptocurrency Firm.

Japan’s Minister for Internal Affairs & Communications and Minister in charge of Women’s Empowerment Seiko Noda denied having an interest in an unregistered cryptocurrency company under investigation and interfering in that investigation.

In January, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) reportedly suspected a Tokyo-based company of violating the law by operating a non-registered cryptocurrency exchange.

The FSA requested a written response to its concerns from the company, arguing that it “did not respond by the deadline given, it would report the matter to investigate authorities and take necessary steps.” Sources said. The company offered its own cryptocurrencies in October.

Several days after issuing the warning, Noda’s office contacted the FSA, asking for an explanation of what had happened.

Noda’s office further said it would permit a company representative to attend the briefing because the company consulted with her office regarding the issue.

Noda reportedly denied that she brought pressure upon the FSA investigation, telling that the purpose of the meeting was to get “an overall general account of cryptocurrency exchanges.”

Noda also argued that she had “no vested interest in the company in question” and the decision by her office to request the meeting “obviously does not amount to exerting pressure.” Noda pointed out that she did not present at the meeting.

An FSA official visited Noda’s office at the Diet members’ building on January 30 to explain Noda’s aide and the representative of the company under investigation the FSA’s positioning on regulations concerning funds raising by issuing cryptocurrency and other matters. A senior official at the FSA emphasized that Noda’s office request for a briefing could be recognized as a pressure.

A public servant will likely take it as pressure if an aide to a sitting Cabinet member calls for a meeting in which an employee of a company the agency is looking into is also present.

Noda subsequently admitted that her aide presented at the meeting, and commented on the allegation, saying:

My aide and the employee of the company know each other. Since we received a request for details of the regulations concerning cryptocurrency exchanges, we arranged (for a meeting with the agency). I was not aware of the agency’s warning against the company.

Nevertheless, the report comes as the FSA has been ramping up scrutiny both of cryptocurrency exchanges and the industry as a whole, a shift that began following the hack of Tokyo-based platform Coincheck in early January.

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