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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007

Ozawa says big office expenses were for real estate

Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa on Tuesday released details of how his political management body spent the large amounts of money listed as "office expenses" on his political funding reports from 2003 to 2005.

Of key interest was how Ozawa spent the 415 million yen logged in his 2005 report. The DPJ leader handed out documents showing that his office spent 90 percent of it on real estate for offices to be used for his political activities.

Ozawa again demanded that Cabinet members and other ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers accused of logging unusually high office expenses also disclose details of their spending.

Ozawa is the first Diet member accused of suspicious spending on office expenses to provide details.

"My basic policy and principle has been the same -- free, fair and open," Ozawa said at a news conference.

Under the Political Funds Control Law, lawmakers are required to itemize and provide receipts for money spent on political activities, but not for office expenses, a category that covers the costs of running a lawmaker's office.

Recently, several Cabinet ministers and other high-profile lawmakers have come under public scrutiny for unusually high office expenses.

Agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, education minister Bunmei Ibuki and Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, have declared huge office expenses even though they were using rent-free government offices.

There have been reports that the real estate logged as office expenses in 2005 is registered in Ozawa's name.

Ozawa said a political funds management body is not a corporate entity and therefore cannot own real estate, so he was listed as the owner.

He said that to ensure he does not claim the properties as personal assets, he has signed documents saying he has no legal right to the properties, including selling them or using them as loan collateral. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, responding to Ozawa's demand that Cabinet ministers reveal the details of their spending, said it is inappropriate to force them to disclose information that is not legally required.

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The Japan Times

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