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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007

Upper House's No. 2 denies fund allegations

Staff writer

House of Councilors Vice President Giichi Tsunoda on Tuesday fended off allegations his campaign headquarters received 25.2 million yen in political donations in 2001 that went unreported.

News photo
Giichi Tsunoda KYODO PHOTO

Facing reporters, Tsunoda denied his campaign headquarters received that amount that year, when he won his third term in the Gunma prefectural district, although he later admitted he couldn't recall anything about funds during that time and added there is no longer any paperwork to prove or disprove the allegations.

His support group also allegedly received contributions from a foreign organization in violation of the Political Funds Control Law, a claim Tsunoda also denied.

Both allegations surfaced last week. It was revealed that documents apparently compiled by his campaign office stated that Tsunoda received donations between May and August 2001 from about 130 individual supporters and some 90 companies and groups, including an entity affiliated with the pro-Pyongyang group Chongryun, also known as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

"The 25 million yen seems to be walking by itself, and there is no evidence to back up (the allegations)," said Tsunoda, whose Democratic Party of Japan membership is on hold while he is Upper House vice president. "I would like to continue my political activities, and . . . I would truly appreciate it if I can finish my term as vice president."

Tsunoda said he looked into the allegations and determined that neither the account manager at that time nor the political support group have any documents to support the suspicions.

"Five and a half years have passed (since the poll), and during this period, I was completely unaware of any issue regarding (unrecorded) political funds," Tsunoda said, adding he does not remember anyone telling him five years ago that his support group received gift money.

"At that time, I was told by my election campaign headquarters that (as the) candidate, (I) should just concentrate on winning the election, without worrying about money -- and so I ran without any worries regarding (how much) money came in and out," Tsunoda said.

On Monday, Mitsuhiko Yamada, former secretary general of the DPJ's Gunma prefectural headquarters and who was in charge of the accounting at that time, said the account books were not saved and there is no way to evaluate the allegations.

"Yamada and I go back 30 years and I trusted him," Tsunoda said. "Our relationship was not based on whether or not I should supervise (him)."

A number of money scandals have hit key lawmakers lately.

In December, reform minister Genichiro Sata was forced to resign over accounting irregularities, while education minister Bunmei Ibuki and agricultural minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka have been hit for reporting office expenses for rent-free government offices.

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