Realtor tight-lipped on Tomobe scandal

A Tokyo realtor who allegedly helped Tatsuo Tomobe win his Upper House seat in 1995 refused Mar. 26 to comment on the allegations, saying he did not want to incriminate himself.

Real estate company head Mamoru Saito, who is allegedly closely connected to massive fraud involving Tomobe was summoned to the Upper House Budget Committee for a testimony under oath. He allegedly helped Tomobe in return for a few hundred million yen. Saito, 48, is known to have connections with many politicians.

The committee arranged the testimony in an attempt to find out what role Saito played in the scandal of Orange Kyosai Kumiai, a body controlled by Tomobe and disguised as a mutual aid institution. Many Upper House members believe that Saito played a key role behind the scandal. But with his refusal to comment Mar. 26, little light was shed on the core of the affair.

During his 70-minute testimony, Saito said that he did not provide assistance to Tomobe during the election campaign period. He said the only things that Tomobe asked of him was for advice on the color of posters and compiling a list of supporters.

Saito was tight-lipped when asked if it is true that he received a large sum of money from Tomobe to lobby influential politicians like former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa to give Tomobe a Shinshinto ticket, as has been reported. Saito said that answering such a question may raise questions of his own criminal responsibility.