Nonaka denies involvement in donation scandal

by Reiji Yoshida

The mystery over a 100 million yen political funds scandal deepened Monday as a former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party appeared in court claiming an alibi: He was not at a meeting where the covert donation was allegedly handed over to an LDP faction on July 2, 2001.

Hiromu Nonaka, an 80-year-old former Lower House member, denied at the Tokyo District Court that he attended the meeting at Koetsu, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Akasaka district.

The Japan Dental Association allegedly gave the money to former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who headed what was then the LDP’s largest faction, but the donation was not reported in the faction’s annual funds report in violation of the Political Funds Control Law, a scandal that has continued to roil national politics.

In separate trials of JDA executives, the defendants testified that Nonaka attended the meeting to witness the handover of the 100 million yen.

“I was not at the meeting. I would remember it if I had been there because I loathed the JDA,” Nonaka told the court.

He claimed that on that night he was in a different restaurant, also in Akasaka.

During a previous court session, Hashimoto claimed Nonaka’s office had made reservations at the restaurant for the meeting with the JDA executives, citing a memo on weekly meetings made by Hashimoto’s office.

But Nonaka flatly denied the allegation, claiming that it was impossible that he would make restaurant reservations for a meeting with the JDA because his relationship with the association was quite bad at that time.

Nonaka alleged that a dentist who belonged to the JDA demanded at least twice a week, from September 1999 through September 2003, that Nonaka retire from politics in his hometown of Kyoto though a loudspeaker mounted on a car.

Nonaka was subpoenaed by the attorney for former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka, who allegedly played a key role in forging a consensus among faction members not to issue a receipt for the 100 million yen.

Who had control over the faction’s money at the time was the critical point contested in Murakami’s trial.

At that time, Nonaka was secretary general of the faction, who, according to the faction’s written rules of procedure, is responsible for managing the faction’s coffers.

But none of the faction executives — including Nonaka, Muraoka or Hashimoto — has admitted they had final say over the faction’s money, all claiming that faction treasurer Toshiyuki Takigawa, who is not a Diet member, was responsible for controlling the purse strings.