Japan's Minister for Agriculture Toshikatsu Matsuoka died Monday after he reportedly tried to hang himself just several hours before he was to face questioning in parliament over a political scandal.
Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, was found in his apartment Monday unconscious and rushed to a hospital, where he was declared dead hours later, a Tokyo Metropolitan Police official said.
Matsuoka had faced heavy criticism over a scandal involving suspicious bookkeeping practices in his offices, and he had been scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee Monday afternoon for further questioning.
Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, was unconscious and his heart had stopped, public broadcaster NHK reported. Japanese police could not immediately comment.
Officials at Tokyo's Keio University Hospital confirmed Matsuoka had been admitted for treatment, but would not comment further.
"He has been taken to the hospital and is being treated," chief government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. "He was found unconscious."
Shiozaki refused to comment on whether it was a suicide attempt.
Matsuoka has faced criticism over a scandal involving suspicious bookkeeping practices involving utility fees for his offices. Scandals have rocked the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On Monday, support for Abe's government fell to its lowest level since he took office last year, according to two newspaper polls.
Support for Abe's Cabinet plunged to 32 percent, down 11 percentage points from a similar poll in April, a survey by the national newspaper Mainichi, taken over the weekend, showed.
The government's disapproval rating rose to 44 percent, up from 33 percent, the Mainichi said. A separate poll by the Nikkei business daily showed Abe's popularity falling to 41 percent, down 12 percentage points from the previous month. His disapproval rating rose to 44 percent from 37 percent.
Both Mainichi and Nikkei cited dissatisfaction with the government's apparent loss of pension payment records for millions of people. It was the latest problem for Abe's government, which has faced financial scandals involving several Cabinet ministers.
Matsuoka had also been dogged by scandal.
He apologized publicly just three days after taking office for not declaring 1 million yen (US$8,500; EUR 6,600) in political donations from a scandal-linked group. He acknowledged the undeclared funds, which came in the form of purchased tickets to a fundraising party, saying he was unaware that the contributions had not been reported.
Matsuoka had since corrected his political funds report for 2005.
Japan's political funds law requires politicians to declare such donations when they exceed 200,000 yen (US$1,700; EUR 1,300), Kyodo News said. The contributions came from the World Business Expert Forum, a group associated with scandal-hit business consultant FAC Co., which was raided by authorities in June on suspicion of illegally collecting funds from investors, Kyodo said.