Hashimoto still can’t recall check

No one agreed to hide JDA's 100 million, yen he testifies

by Reiji Yoshida

Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto took the witness stand Tuesday over his party faction’s unreported donation from the Japan Dental Association, but the 100 million yen question is: Who was controlling the purse strings at the time?

Hashimoto, whose faction until July was the largest in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a dominant player politics, denied playing any role in managing the funds.

He was summoned to the Tokyo District Court by the counsel for former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka, who allegedly played a key role in gaining a consensus not to issue a receipt for the 100 million yen check to the faction handed personally to Hashimoto by the JDA.

Hashimoto again claimed he had no recollection of being handed the funds.

A key question in Muraoka’s trial is who was responsible for managing the faction’s finances — including the 100 million yen check.

Hashimoto denied that faction treasurer Toshiyuki Takigawa gave him a report about the 100 million yen donation that was left out of the group’s 2001 annual funds report, which is illegal.

He also denied he received regular monthly reports from Takigawa, who testified earlier that he compiled an income and expenditures report every month and distributed it to “executives” of the faction.

“If it’s true, I was not (what Takigawa described as) an executive of the faction,” Hashimoto told the court.

Asked by Muraoka’s counsel who had the final say in controlling his faction’s money, Hashimoto did not mention any of the group’s executives and said it didn’t establish any rules about it.

Takigawa was chief of the Hashimoto faction’s secretariat, and many observers say it is unlikely he alone decided to keep the dental lobby’s donation out of the faction’s annual funds report without approval.

Prosecutors charged that it was Muraoka, then deputy chairman of the faction, who played the key role in forming the consensus to hide the money at an executive meeting in March 2002, but Muraoka has flatly denied it and pleaded innocent.

At Tuesday’s session, Hashimoto said he believes Takigawa consulted some faction executives “who he found it easy to consult with” when he made decisions about handling large amounts of political funds. But Hashimoto declined to name anyone.

Hashimoto allegedly received the 100 million yen check from executives of the dental association at a restaurant in Tokyo’s Akasaka district in July 2001, and ordered Takigawa to cash it a few days later.

Hashimoto insisted he had “no memory” of receiving the money at the restaurant, but admitted “it is probably true,” given the testimony of others and a record of the meeting left in memos of his schedule.