Ex-LDP heavyweight Muraoka indicted over donation scandal

Fellow Hashimoto-faction members escape charges

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka was indicted Sunday but not taken into custody over a political donation scandal involving the Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction and a dentists group.

Muraoka, 73, is suspected by prosecutors of violating the Political Funds Control Law by backing a plan to hide a 100 million yen political donation given to the faction by the Japan Dental Association in July 2001.

He is the first member of the faction who has served in the Cabinet to be charged with criminal responsibility over the case.

Prosecutors meanwhile decided Sunday not to indict other senior faction members over the affair, including former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, former LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, and Mikio Aoki, chairman of the LDP’s caucus in the House of Councilors.

Hashimoto was head of the faction when the donation was made. He resigned that position after the scandal came to light.

The prosecutors alleged that Nonaka was involved in the case but chose to suspend indicting him for now. They decided not to prosecute Hashimoto and Aoki due to a lack of convincing evidence, sources close to the case said.

The prosecutors determined Muraoka gave instructions to hide the donation, after Toshiyuki Takigawa, an accountant for the faction charged with failing to report the money, told the prosecutors he had consulted Muraoka about the funds.

Muraoka has denied all allegations.

“I swear to the gods that I know nothing about it,” Muraoka told reporters Sunday.

He said his indictment was “outrageous” and that he will fight his case in court. “This is nothing but a false charge.”

Muraoka also denied he had been consulted by Takigawa, claiming the allegation is a fabrication by prosecutors.

Muraoka was a leading figure in the faction. He was elected nine times to the House of Representatives until he was defeated in the 2003 general election.

After indicting Takigawa, 55, on Sept. 18 for failing to report the donation, the prosecutors also questioned Sadao Usuda, a former head of the dental association charged with violating the political funds law.

In spring 2002, near the deadline for the submission of the political funds report for 2001, Muraoka was in a position to advise Takigawa on accounting and other issues as deputy to Hashimoto, who was hospitalized at the time for heart disease.

According to indictments and other documents, Usuda handed a 100 million yen check to Hashimoto on July 2, 2001, ahead of the House of Councilors election. Takigawa deposited the check into the faction’s bank account, but the money was not recorded in funding reports by the faction and the dentists association.