The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 5, 2009)
No room for leniency in Hatoyama fund probe
The extraordinary Diet session ended Friday without any intensive deliberations focusing on the shadowy fund management of certain politicians, or debates between party leaders. Just as worryingly, the issue of falsified reports on political donations involving Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's fund-management organization remains unsettled.
The first whiff of scandal arose when it was found that Hatoyama's fund-management organization had listed dead people as donors. Adding to the maelstrom, Hatoyama now is suspected of having received a huge amount of money from his mother. The public has been astonished by these allegations.
Hatoyama's mother allegedly extended 180 million yen annually as "loans" to the prime minister. These payments, which totaled about 1.1 billion yen over about six years, reportedly began shortly after the 2002 Democratic Party of Japan presidential election, in which Hatoyama was elected party leader for a third term.
Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kunio Hatoyama, who is the younger brother of the prime minister, also is believed to have received a similar amount of money from his mother.
The prime minister's fund-management organization apparently made false entries regarding donations and income from sales of fund-raising party tickets, including money that came from funds provided by Hatoyama's mother, totaling 360 million yen in political fund reports over five years.
The prime minister has yet to give a proper explanation about these funds, citing the investigation being conducted by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office for suspected violations of the Political Funds Control Law. Asked about the funds from his mother, the prime minister said, "I myself am surprised." Hatoyama's remark gave the impression that he saw this as someone else's problem. We think this is inexcusable.
Why did he need such a massive sum of money? For what purposes was this money used? The prime minister must answer these questions.
Prosecutors reportedly have decided not to question the prime minister and instead are considering asking him to submit a written statement. However, we think the prosecutors should speak to Hatoyama directly to unravel the truth behind this disturbing affair.
Don't let history repeat
After former Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Shin Kanemaru was found to have illegally received 500 million yen in donations in 1992, the prosecutors office made a summary indictment after letting Kanemaru submit a written statement without undergoing questioning.
Surely prosecutors have not forgotten the public outrage sparked by the handling of the Kanemaru incident. Groups of people filed 40,000 criminal complaints calling for further investigations into the case.
We believe prosecutors should conduct a meticulous investigation into Hatoyama's donations that will satisfy the general public.
Common sense suggests the amount of money Hatoyama received from his mother was too large to have been loans. Furthermore, it appears that no written documents or agreements specifying repayment of these "loaned" funds were made.
If national tax authorities deem this money to be gifts, the prime minister would have to pay more than 400 million yen in tax as he failed to declare them as such.
Tax authorities will determine whether the funds in question were loans or gifts. If the authorities treat the prime minister leniently, the public will feel the matter is not being handled fairly. They might even lose trust in tax authorities.
The Yomiuri Shimbun has received a number of comments from its readers on this issue. "It's unacceptable that [the prime minister] simply says he didn't know what was going on after he received up to 1.1 billion yen," one reader said, while another complained, "I don't feel like paying my taxes any more."
The tax authorities should be relentless in their handling of this case.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2009)