Hashimoto donation violated law

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s fundraising body received 500,000 yen in donations from an Osaka-based medical organization that apparently violated the Political Funds Control Law by making the contribution, officials said Feb. 13.

Hashimoto’s office returned the money in January to Seikenkai, which runs hospitals and other businesses with subsidies from the Health and Welfare Ministry, they said. Under the law, companies or organizations that receive government subsidies are banned from offering donations within a year after they are notified of the subsidy payment. Violators can face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.

According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, Seikenkai received 106 million yen in March 1994 and an additional 56 million yen last March for expansion of facilities at its group hospitals. Seikenkai donated 500,000 yen to one of Hashimoto’s fundraising bodies in December 1995 and 500,000 yen last August. The donation last year is in question because it was offered only five months after the organization received the ministry subsidies.

An official of the fundraising body said the 1 million yen was returned after being informed by Seikenkai that the donations may be problematic. Hashimoto released a statement saying his office was not aware that Seikenkai had received subsidies.

A Seikenkai spokesman said 1 million yen was the total amount donated to Hashimoto’s office. He apologized for not knowing the rules banning such donations.