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Friday, Jan. 22, 2010
Hatoyama reaffirms innocence
By JUN HONGO
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama again proclaimed his innocence Thursday in a political funds scandal involving donations from his mother, telling the House of Representatives Budget Committee that he is ready to resign if the facts prove otherwise.
Prosecutors have revealed that Hatoyama's mother gave some ¥1.26 billion to the prime minister's fund management body from 2002 to 2008, with part of the money apparently disguised as donations from other people, even some deceased.
Two of Hatoyama's former secretaries have been arrested over the case, but Hatoyama has insisted he was not aware of any wrongdoing. When news of the mother's contributions surfaced, they were first deemed "loans," but Hatoyama last month agreed to amend his tax returns and pay more than ¥500 million in gift taxes.
"I swear by the gods of heaven and Earth that I did not know (about the donations). If there are any facts that prove otherwise, I am not eligible to wear the badge" of a Lower House member, Hatoyama said.
The prime minister clashed head-on with Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki in the budget committee meeting. Hatoyama apologized for the recent developments but repeated that the shady money transfers were in no way intended for his personal gain.
But Tanigaki wasted no time in criticizing the transactions, spending 40 minutes of the debate attacking them.
Tanigaki also took a swipe at Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, who has seen three former secretaries arrested earlier this month for an unregistered ¥350 million land purchase involving funds prosecutors suspect were supplied by general contractors.
The LDP chief also criticized Hatoyama for appearing to encourage Ozawa's defiance of prosecutors.
"It is highly regrettable and very strange" that DPJ executives are involved in such cases, Tanigaki said, demanding that the budget committee hold a special session to discuss the issue.
Hatoyama, repeating that he did not intend to intervene in the investigation of Ozawa's finances, said he was simply backing a colleague who also claims to be innocent.
The ¥7.2 trillion second supplementary budget is expected to be passed by the committee Monday, with New Komeito saying it will support the plan.
Prosecutors will question Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa on a voluntary basis Saturday in Tokyo, sources said Thursday.
The prosecutors have confirmed the date with the Ozawa side, they said.
The questioning will likely take four hours, during which investigators will ask him about his political fund management body's alleged false political fund reports related to a controversial land purchase, the sources said.
Ozawa is expected repeat his earlier claim that the ¥350 million land deal was entirely funded by his personal assets and not by shady donations from general contractors, the sources said.
Ozawa's personal assets at the time reportedly amounted to ¥600 million, mostly consisting of time deposits and foreign currency-denominated savings made under the names of his wife and three children.