Nishimatsu conviction has major implications
Former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa must explain more clearly to the public the circumstances surrounding his political funds.
The Tokyo District Court on Friday convicted a former president of Nishimatsu Construction Co. of violating the Political Funds Control Law and the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law.
The evidence that formed the basis for the former Nishimatsu president's conviction partially overlaps with facts presented in the indictment against Ozawa's state-paid first secretary, who is being tried separately. The conviction of the former Nishimatsu president indicates that charges presented in the indictment against Ozawa's secretary were indirectly acknowledged by the court.
As one of the DPJ's acting presidents, Ozawa still holds an important position in his party. It is almost certain that the House of Representatives will be dissolved Tuesday, and that voting for the lower house will take place on Aug. 30. It is Ozawa's responsibility as a politician to spell out to voters why he accepted a huge amount of funds from a specific company, and how he used the money.
Ruling bodes ill for Ozawa aide
In Friday's ruling, the court pointed out that Nishimatsu made donations to the Ozawa side so as to ensure that Nishimatsu won public works orders made by Iwate and Akita prefectures by trying to build a favorable relationship with Ozawa's secretaries, who have a strong influence over which contractors win such orders.
The total amount of the donations reached about 138 million yen over 10 years. Most of this amount was donated under the names of two dummy political organizations led by former Nishimatsu executives.
It is noteworthy that the ruling determined that the two political organizations existed in name only. That being the case, Ozawa's office should have written "Nishimatsu" in the space for donors' names in his political fund reports. That will become a point of contention in the secretary's trial.
Ozawa's secretary did not figure largely in Friday's ruling. But after the first hearing of the former Nishimatsu president's trial, the secretary's defense counsel raised a strenuous objection to the prosecutors' argument, saying it was based on one-sided testimonies of those with connections to the general contractor companies.
However, the court acknowledged as facts the illegality of the donations in question and the clout the Ozawa side wielded over the selection of contractors for public works projects. This also is highly significant. The DPJ also should investigate these matters.
Voters' eyes on money politics
The ruling also said Nishimatsu purchased tickets for political fund-raising parties held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party faction headed by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai under the names of dummy political entities to conceal the donations from the construction firm. A total of 8.44 million yen worth of tickets were purchased in that way. Of them, the indictment applied to 3.4 million yen worth of tickets in respect of which the statute of limitations had not run out.
In Nikai's case, those in charge of accounting in the faction were not indicted, and the case differs from that in which Ozawa's secretary is involved. But the fact remains that it was Nikai's secretaries who asked Nishimatsu to buy the tickets.
Nikai said at a press conference that his office has accurately reported donated funds "in a cooperative manner based on goodwill" on the basis of the Political Funds Control Law. But we wonder how closely he has examined the matter. He owes the public a detailed explanation.
When casting their ballots, the problem of money and politics is something voters cannot ignore. Politicians should not forget that voters are carefully watching what they are doing and how they are doing it.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2009)