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Monday, July 25, 2011
Fate of Mr. Ozawa's secretaries
In the Tokyo District Court trial of three former secretaries of former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, the prosecution on July 20 demanded 3½ years of imprisonment for Mr. Takanori Okubo; two years for Mr. Tomohiro Ishikawa, currently a Lower House member; and one year for Mr. Mitsutomo Ikeda.
The three are charged with making false entries in reports of Rikuzankai, Mr. Ozawa's political funds management body. The case involves ¥400 million that Rikuzankai borrowed from Mr. Ozawa in October 2004 to buy a plot of land.
The ruling, to be handed down Sept. 26, may accuse the prosecution of conducting an unlawful or, at the very least, a defective investigation. The prosecution said that because the ¥400 million was of a shady origin that Rikuzankai could not make public, the secretaries schemed to hide the fact that Rikuzankai had borrowed it from Mr. Ozawa.
Mr. Ishikawa is accused of having failed to enter the money in Rikuzankai's 2004 report, although that money was used to buy the plot of land. Moreover, he made an arrangement with a bank for Rikuzankai to borrow ¥400 million, the same amount as Mr. Ozawa's loan, by using as security ¥400 million that had originally come from a related political body.
On June 30 the court dismissed a prosecutor's record of Mr. Ishikawa's oral statement that he had received verbal approval from Mr. Ozawa to falsify the report. The grounds for dismissal were that the prosecutor had used coercion and leading questions during the interrogation of Mr. Ishikawa.
The court also dismissed — again due to the use of coercion and leading questions — the prosecutors' record of Mr. Ishikawa's oral statement that he had showed Rikuzankai's fund report and statement of income and expenditures to Mr. Okubo. Mr. Okubo denies his involvement in the case.
The prosecution says that Mr. Ishikawa received ¥50 million in cash from Mizutani Construction Co. as a secret donation. A former president of the firm testified that he handed the money to him. But a former chairman of the firm said he was not sure whether the money was actually handed to the secretary. Although the prosecution attaches importance to the money, nobody was indicted in this particular matter.
Despite these ambiguities, the trial is being watched with interest because its outcome will influence, for better or worse, the political life of Mr. Ozawa, who also has been indicted.