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FACTBOX: Some key facts on Japan's farm minister

(Reuters) - Japanese farm minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who has been under fire for a series of political funding scandals, killed himself on Monday, the first suicide by a cabinet minister since shortly after World War Two.

Here are some facts on Matsuoka, whose death comes less than two months before an election for parliament’s upper house, a key test for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.

* Born on February 25, 1945, in Kumamoto Prefecture, the bespectacled 62-year-old was a career farm ministry bureaucrat before being elected to the lower house in 1990.

* Supported by the farm lobby, Matsuoka in the past staunchly opposed liberalization of Japan’s agriculture, but in his ministry position he was responsible for sorting out the issue of farm trade in Japan’s negotiations with other countries on free trade agreements.

* In January 2007, Matsuoka was criticized for huge water and electricity expenses claimed for a rent-free office. Japanese media last week reported that he had received political donations from businessmen involved in a bid-rigging scandal. Matsuoka repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Sources: Reuters, Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet Web site, (www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/abedaijin/060926/08matsuoka_e.html)

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