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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nishimatsu boss tells court he paid Nikai


Staff writer

Nishimatsu Construction Co.'s former president, Mikio Kunisawa, pleaded guilty Tuesday to purchasing fundraising party tickets for a Liberal Democratic Party faction led by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshihiro Nikai.

At his second Tokyo District Court trial session, Kunisawa, 70, admitted violating the Political Funds Control Law by using Nishimatsu's dummy organizations to buy fundraising party tickets for the Nikai faction's political body, Atarashii Nami, on two occasions in June and July 2006 worth a total of ¥3.4 million.

Kunisawa has already pleaded guilty to giving ¥5 million in illicit donations through the dummy firms to the political fund management body of former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa and to bringing into Japan ¥70 million from the firm's overseas slush fund without reporting it to customs authorities between February 2006 and August 2007.

He owned up to these charges when his trial opened June 19 and prosecutors asked for an 18-month prison term.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they will not demand a longer sentence despite the additional admission of guilt.

Kunisawa's lawyers asked the court for a suspended sentence, arguing he had acted for the sake of the company and that others in his position would have done likewise.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office initially decided not to press the charge regarding the contributions to Nikai, citing insufficient evidence. However, they reversed their stance after an 11-member inquest committee found that the prosecution's decision was in error and urged them to reinvestigate.

Although the prosecutors decided to slap the additional criminal charge on Kunisawa, they said last month they would not indict members of the Nikai faction's political fund body due to lack of evidence, even after the reinvestigation.

On Tuesday, one of Kunisawa's lawyer said it was not fair that the donor has been charged and not the recipient.

The court is to hand down its sentence Friday.

Prior to Kunisawa's session, the court handed down a suspended four-month prison term to Keiji Fujimaki, 68, former vice president of Nishimatsu, who along with Kunisawa admitted in June his involvement in bringing into Japan the ¥70 million from the overseas slush fund.

On the DPJ's involvement in the Nishimatsu scandal, Takanori Okubo, a secretary for Ozawa who was in charge of handling his political fund management body, Rikuzankai, has been charged with taking illegal donations from two Nishimatsu dummy entities and falsely reporting them as donations from political groups.

The Nishimatsu probe was damaging to the DPJ, bringing down Ozawa and giving the LDP a chance to revive its popularity.



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