Hatoyama must explain political funds scandal
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama continues to be evasive in facing up to the politics-and-money scandal he is entangled in, refusing to explain for what purpose he used such a massive amount of money. In his own defense, the prime minister said the case was still under investigation, and later, that it was before the court.
Hatoyama should waste no time in fulfilling his duty and make a full explanation.
On Thursday, the Tokyo District Court handed down a ruling in a case involving allegedly falsified income and expenditure reports on political funds submitted by Yuai Seikei Konwa-kai, the prime minister's funds management organization. Keiji Katsuba, Hatoyama's former first state-paid secretary, was sentenced to a two-year prison term, suspended for three years, for violating the Political Funds Control Law.
The court concluded that Yuai Seikei Konwa-kai's political funding reports falsely declared contributions totaling 400 million yen from individuals through such means as using the names of people who never made such donations, including the deceased.
What was the money for?
Katsuba bears serious responsibility for a crime committed to conceal a massive amount of money from public scrutiny by lying about where it came from. The prime minister's responsibility is no less grave in that he failed to realize a crime was being committed.
The conclusion of Katsuba's trial does not mean the case is closed with respect to Hatoyama's own responsibility.
Hatoyama received a total of 1.25 billion yen from his mother. However, he continues to say, "I knew nothing [about my mother's financial assistance]." At the end of last year, the prime minister paid about 600 million yen in gift tax, apparently trying to put the scandal behind him.
Hatoyama's response aroused speculation that he would not have paid the gift tax had it not been for the scandal, even prompting some people to say, "It's ridiculous to pay taxes." Such a comment is not surprising.
Nothing is known about the purpose for which more than 700 million yen from the money in question has been used. The prime minister repeatedly said: "I left everything [related to his political funding] to my secretary. I know nothing about it."
However, this did little to lessen the anger of the public and the opposition camp. In December, Hatoyama said, "I'll explain every fact to the public after prosecutors have finished uncovering the truth behind the case."
In March, Hatoyama also mentioned the specific measures he would take to explain the pertinent facts to the public: "I'll ask [prosecutors] to return the documents [submitted to them] after the trial is concluded, and show them to the public."
Prime minister backtracks
During a one-on-one debate with opposition leaders on Wednesday, however, Hatoyama reneged on this promise, saying, "There is no need to disclose such documents." Many people may have been angered--rather than just surprised--by the prime minister's apparent change of heart.
Did Hatoyama lie when he promised to release the documents? The prime minister should immediately start an investigation into the money received from his mother and take every possible means to disclose what the huge amount of funds were used for.
The prime minister's obtuse attitude has greatly undermined the public's image of the Democratic Party of Japan.
This has been exacerbated by DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa's failure to provide the facts behind the alleged accounting irregularities involving his political funding body's purchase of land worth 400 million yen. Chiyomi Kobayashi, a House of Representatives member of the ruling party, has also evaded questions raised about the scandal involving funds allegedly received illegally by her election office from the Hokkaido Teachers' Union during her campaign for last year's lower house election.
Inquest-of-prosecution committees will soon pass judgment on the propriety of earlier decisions by prosecutors not to indict Hatoyama and Ozawa over their respective money scandals. If the panels rule against both decisions, it means prosecutors must conduct fresh investigations into these cases. If that happens, the public will become even harsher in its criticism of the DPJ lawmakers.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,April 23, 2010)