Editorial: Former DPJ chief Ozawa must come clean in light of aides' guilty verdicts
Former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) chief Ichiro Ozawa, who is at the center of a political funding scandal, claimed his innocence when his trial opened on Oct. 6.
"There is no reason for me to be charged with a crime," he said.
"The trial should be aborted."
Criminal charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law had been brought against Ozawa for conspiring with aides to falsify funding reports over the 2004 purchase of land in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward made by his fundraising organization, Rikuzankai.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the case against Ozawa, but the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution selected by members of the public twice decided that Ozawa should be indicted.
This marked the first instance of a politician's "mandatory indictment" under a revised prosecution inquest law that went into effect in 2009.
The public trial takes place under the new system of "mandatory indictment," and it goes without saying that it should be conducted according to the rules of criminal cases.
The responsibility of proving Ozawa's guilt lies with court-appointed lawyers who will serve as prosecutors.
The former DPJ leader has the right to remain silent, and can refuse to provide testimony in response to individual questions.
Despite such allowances, however, we would like to see Ozawa testify head on in this public trial, for there is no doubt that he has caused members of the public to harbor distrust over political fundraising, which should be a transparent process.
At the opening of the trial on Oct. 6, Ozawa lambasted the court-appointed lawyers.
And while he refused to answer any specific questions about the allegations at a press conference following the hearing, it is hoped that a levelheaded battle based on evidence unfolds in court.
First, let us take a look at the source of the 400 million yen Ozawa supplied in the 2004 land purchase.
In the trials of his three former secretaries, the unusual nature of their land-purchase transactions were deemed efforts to cover up illicit activity, and provided the basis for their guilty sentences in September.
Ozawa's 400 million yen is the starting point for it all.
At the ruling of the former aides at the Tokyo District Court, the presiding judge pointed out, "Even the former DPJ leader (Ozawa) has been unable to provide a clear explanation (on the source of the 400 million yen)."
At Ozawa's first hearing, his lawyers made no mention of the source of the 400 million yen, and at the subsequent press conference, Ozawa simply said, "It was my money."
Ozawa's claims have changed over time, with him saying at one point that the money came from bank loans, and at others saying the money had been inherited.
We'd like to ask him once again where exactly the money came from.
Takanori Okubo, one of Ozawa aides found guilty over the land purchase scandal, was also found guilty of falsifying reports on donations from general contractor Nishimatsu Construction Co. at the sentencing in September.
What became a focal point of criticism in that ruling was the longtime collusion between Ozawa's office and general contractors.
As such, it can be said that the trial that began on Thursday may cover only one facet of a much greater scandal involving politics and money.
Even granting that his former aides' guilty verdicts were handed down by a lower court, they still carry significant implications for Ozawa.
At the very least, Ozawa should provide an explanation to the Political Ethics Hearing Committee as the politician who had a supervisory role over the three aides.
The ability of the Diet to govern itself is also in question.
Two years ago, New Komeito submitted a political funding law revision bill that would prevent politicians from evading responsibility by saying that their aides had conducted illicit activity without their knowledge.
If implemented, lawmakers would be removed from public office if their funding reports are found to have been falsified.
We hope that further discussion takes place.
毎日新聞 2011年10月7日 2時31分