Ozawa must come clean on funds allegations
A lawmaker's aide allegedly collected donations from a general contractor, which expected to receive orders for lucrative public works projects in return, and made false entries in political fund reports to conceal the actual flow of funds.
In the first hearing of the trial of a state-funded secretary to Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa over alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law, prosecutors pointed to such a cozy relationship between Ozawa's office and a construction company. If the allegations are proved true, they would certainly be an act of deception that betrayed the public.
During Friday's trial, the secretary denied all the claims presented in the indictment as well as the prosecutors' argument that he by himself had "the voice of heaven," or the authority to issue commands, to influence the process of determining winners of contracts for public works projects.
Although the secretary denied the allegations, he is on trial as a defendant in a criminal case. Ozawa is a politician with heavy responsibilities as secretary general of the dominant ruling party. We think Ozawa must provide clear explanations on the allegations aired in the trial.
It has been found that two political organizations headed by former officials of the general contractor, Nishimatsu Construction Co., donated 35 million yen over four years to Ozawa's political fund management organization and a DPJ local branch headed by Ozawa.
The prosecutors claimed the two organizations were merely dummies and that Nishimatsu Construction was actually the true source of the donations. The prosecution also argued that Ozawa's secretary was well aware of these details.
To support the allegation, the prosecutors presented, during their opening statement and on other occasions, details of a number of instances in which the secretary had spoken with officials of Nishimatsu and other general contractors.
The secretary allegedly was able to convince the firms to fork over huge donations after taking over from his predecessor the role of "the voice of heaven" regarding the public works contracts.
A dam construction project that the Iwate prefectural government planned to put up for tender lies at the heart of this case. The secretary allegedly told Nishimatsu officials when they lobbied to receive the order: "Right, I've got it. I'll let Nishimatsu undertake the project." The secretary reportedly wrote down the title of the project as he was talking.
When Nishimatsu officials were reluctant to extend financial support to Ozawa's election campaign, the secretary reportedly brought up the name of another dam, on which the company had received an order. He allegedly told the officials, in an apparent attempt to intimidate them, "Don't forget that it's Ozawa's dam."
More scandals rear heads
In their opening statement, prosecutors said Nishimatsu donated 138 million yen over 10 years to the Ozawa side, including donations falsely registered in political fund reports. It is believed another 10 million yen in donations were raked in annually from subcontractors.
Adding more fuel to the scandal fire, Ozawa's political fund management organization is under the spotlight over a dubious land purchase.
We wonder how Ozawa will respond to these allegations.
In another money scandal embroiling a DPJ heavyweight, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's political fund management organization is suspected of having falsified political fund reports. A former state-paid secretary to Hatoyama is expected to be indicted without arrest soon over the case.
The DPJ is considering banning political donations from companies and organizations. Ozawa spoke of this plan at a press conference soon after his secretary was arrested. But if Ozawa cannot clear up the troubling allegations against him, such a policy proposal will inevitably be regarded as a mere facade.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2009)