Photo/IllutrationFormer Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama speaks in Naha in September. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Yukio Hatoyama, a former Japanese prime minister, denied knowledge of a link between a tax haven and a Hong Kong energy company for which he serves as honorary chairman and senior consultant.

After he gave a lecture and conducted a question-and-answer session in Naha on Sept. 29, Hatoyama was questioned by reporters from The Asahi Shimbun and Kyodo News about his connection to the Hong Kong company.

Excerpts of the exchange follow:

Reporters: We would like to ask you about the Hoifu Energy Group Ltd. of Hong Kong.

Hatoyama: Yes, yes.

Q: You serve as honorary chairman for the group, don’t you?

A: In name only.

Q: Could you explain how you were appointed to the position?

A: What is this about?

Q: We are looking into companies based in tax havens and although it may be a Hong Kong company, it is registered in Bermuda.

A: Dr. Hui, who heads the group, came to see me a few years ago. I have also been invited to the weddings of his daughter and son. Isn’t Mr. Bush also included? The younger brother of Mr. Bush. So I joined when he asked me to allow just my name to be included. Although the post is honorary chairman, there is no significance to it in fact.

Q: Have you ever attended a company meeting or been involved in some business project?

A: No, I have not.

Q: What is your role?

A: I think probably by having the Hatoyama name, they want to gain more trust in China by having my name written on company documents.

Q: Are you aware that the company is actually registered in Bermuda?

A: I do not know that. Is it to use it as a tax haven?

Q: Well,

A: There was some discussion about possibly drilling for oil in Madagascar.

Q: There have been reports critical about that project because it could lead to environmental destruction.

A: I don’t know about that.

Q: Did you become honorary chairman because Dr. Hui asked you?

A: I would never go around and ask to be named from my side.

Q: In a document introducing what the company does there is the following entry: “With the amicable relationship with renowned global energy groups from Japan, China and Africa, Dr. Hatoyama is deeply confident of participating and guiding the Group’s energy development business.”

A: That may be how I am described, but there is nothing that I have ever done specifically for the company.

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Visit The Asahi Shimbun's special website on the Paradise Papers for videos, photos and graphics on how journalists dug into the more than 13 million documents leaked from Bermuda and elsewhere to uncover shady transactions through tax havens.