Saito denies buying Diet seat

Real estate company chief Mamoru Saito, who is allegedly involved in the Orange Kyosai Kumiai mutual aid society fraud, repeatedly denied Friday that he distributed money to politicians to buy a Diet position for Upper House member Tatsuo Tomobe.

However, Saito admitted he received about 100 million yen from Momoo Tomobe, son of the legislator, to organize a political support group for the lawmaker. The realtor said the money was spent to rent an office in Tokyo for Tomobe, to make posters for him and to pay actresses Saito hired for Tomobe’s election campaign.

Saito, 48, made the remarks when he appeared before the Upper House Budget Committee to testify as a sworn witness in connection with the scandal.

Asked details of his relationships with prominent politicians, which Momoo Tomobe, 29, testified about last month, Saito denied ties to the politicians.

His testimony was largely limited to denying various allegations against him and repeatedly saying he did not remember events or details. In addition, he refused to answer many questions posed by committee members.

Toranosuke Katayama, a senior panel member, said the committee will examine Saito’s testimony to determine whether to file a complaint against him with the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office for suspected perjury and refusal to testify.

On March 21, when committee members visited Momoo Tomobe at the Metropolitan Police Department, where he has been detained, the son said he handed about 450 million yen to Saito to have the money delivered to several politicians, including former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Shinshinto and Shinshinto President Ichiro Ozawa.

Tatsuo Tomobe won a Diet seat in the July 1995 Upper House election on Shinshinto’s proportional representation ticket. He left the party last fall when the scandal broke.

Tomobe, who was stripped of his Diet immunity and indicted on a charge of fraud, is suspected to be the key player in the misappropriation of deposits for an investment fund offered by Orange Kyosai, which was run by the son and other members of Tomobe’s family.

Saito’s first testimony was suspended on March 27 when he complained of ill health.