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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kunisawa is handed suspended sentence

Nishimatsu ex-boss guilty of illegal Diet donations


Staff writer

A former president of Nishimatsu Construction Co. was handed a suspended 16-month prison sentence Friday for his part in making illegal donations to Diet members and bringing slush funds into Japan without reporting the money to customs.

News photo
Mikio Kunisawa

The Tokyo District Court found Mikio Kunisawa, 70, guilty in the illegal donation of ¥5 million to the former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa's political fund management body through two dummy entities between October and November 2006.

The court also said Kunisawa illegally donated ¥3.4 million to a political fund of the Liberal Democratic Party faction led by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai by purchasing fundraising party tickets between June and July 2006 through two of the firm's dummy entities.

Presiding Judge Masataka Yamaguchi said the donations violated the Political Funds Control Law, which is designed to ensure transparency of political funds.

"Nishimatsu tried to build a favorable relationship with Ozawa's secretary and others with influence over decisions about which firms get orders for public works projects, so that it could get the orders in Iwate and Akita prefectures through bid-rigging," Yamaguchi said.

But the judge said the donations were not made to secure any specific construction project there.

He also said the donation to Nikai's political fund was done through the dummy groups simply to hide the fact that the tickets were purchased by the second-tier construction firm.

Nishimatsu's donations precipitated Ozawa's resignation from his post as DPJ president in May after his secretary, Takanori Okubo, who was in charge of handling Ozawa's political fund management body, Rikuzankai, was indicted in March for falsely reporting Nishimatsu's donations from political groups.

Okubo, who made bail in late May, is reportedly denying the accusations. His trial date has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in June said they would not indict members of the Nikai faction's political fund body, Atarashii Nami, for lack of evidence.

On Friday, the court also held Kunisawa responsible for violating the foreign exchange and foreign trade law by helping to bring ¥70 million into Japan from the firm's overseas slush fund between February 2006 and August 2007.

Kunisawa has owned up to all the charges, and prosecutors sought an 18-month term.

Trade minister Nikai declined comment on Friday's rulings. However, when asked about fundraising party tickets, he repeatedly said his faction's political funds were reported accurately in accordance with the law.



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