Prison time, fines sought for former labor minister

Prosecutors on Wednesday demanded a prison term of 3 1/2 years and a fine of 72.8 million yen for former Labor Minister Masakuni Murakami, who is accused of accepting bribes from industrial mutual aid organization KSD.

Murakami, 70, a former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Upper House caucus, took a total of 72.8 million yen in bribes from Tadao Koseki, then president of KSD, between 1996 and 1998, according to prosecutors at the Tokyo District Court.

Murakami received the money as a reward for cooperating with a KSD project to build a university in Saitama Prefecture, the prosecutors said.

During earlier sessions of the trial, Murakami pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he did not receive any bribes and had not been asked to help with the KSD project.

Once known as an LDP heavyweight, Murakami resigned from the Diet after the scandal broke out.

KSD, founded by Koseki in 1964, provides mutual aid schemes for owners of small and midsize companies.

In January 1996, according to the indictment, Koseki asked Murakami to put questions to a Diet committee in a way that would support the university project.

As reward, KSD covered the rental costs of Murakami’s office through 1998 — worth 28.8 million yen. In October 1996, it also handed Murakami 50 million yen in cash.

Murakami “effectively sold off his Diet questions in exchange for campaign funds,” the prosecutors said.

Through his selfish motives, Murakami “damaged public trust in the public nature of Diet members’ duties,” they said.

Seven people have been charged in a series of scandals involving KSD ranging from bribery to misappropriation of funds. Koseki and three others from KSD have been convicted.

Former Upper House member Takao Koyama is appealing a ruling by the district court, which sentenced him to 22 months in prison and a fine of 31.6 million yen.