Opposition lawmaker Hisayasu Nagata dropped a political bombshell Thursday in the Diet, claiming Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie sent an internal e-mail before the Sept. 11 election directing his staff to pay 30 million yen to the son of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe.
Takebe earnestly backed Horie during his run for the Diet, calling him “my brother, my son” while stumping for him.
The accusation, made at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session, indicates Horie, a now arrested Internet entrepreneur whose business exploits had elevated him to rock star status, may have bought political support from Takebe.
Takebe, however, immediately denied the accusation, claiming an unnamed LDP lawmaker contacted his son and confirmed no money was actually paid to him.
Nagata, a Democratic Party of Japan representative from Chiba Prefecture, said the purported e-mail message shows “the center of the ruling party may have been tainted” by shady money.
Horie, 33, agreed to run as an independent against ousted LDP stalwart Shizuka Kamei in Hiroshima’s No. 6 constituency after meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The LDP supported him by declining to field its own candidate against the postal privatization foe, which would have split the vote. Horie lost.
Nagata read the e-mail, dated Aug. 26, out loud.
“Secret: I want you to urgently handle this. I want you to make arrangements to transfer 30 million yen to … by Aug. 31 at the latest, Aug. 29 if possible. The same account to which we transferred last time should be OK. The money should be in the name of election consulting fee. Please ask Miyauchi for instructions.”
The name mentioned in the e-mail is apparently a reference to Takebe’s son, while “Miyauchi” refers to former Liverdoor director Ryoji Miyauchi, who was arrested last month along with Horie. Campaigning for the Sept. 11 election officially kicked off on Aug. 30.
“I suspect Horie was given extraordinarily good (election support from Takebe) because of this close relationship,” Nagata said, adding he believes the money was actually transferred to a bank account controlled by Takebe’s son. He said he would disclose more details if the Diet investigates.
“I did lots of investigation, but found no signs showing that the (e-mail) order was not carried out,” Nagata said.
Speaking to reporters later in the day, Nagata declined to reveal how he obtained the e-mail, claiming his source is “very scared” about being identified.
Nagata also said he will demand that transaction records of the bank account in question be made public. If Takebe refuses, it will only deepen the suspicion, he added.
Koizumi meanwhile called the allegation “totally groundless” and urged the DPJ not to bring up such a “false rumor” during a Diet session.
Asked how he knows the claim is groundless, Koizumi said Takebe told him so earlier the day.
Asked about Nagata’s demand for disclosure of the bank account records, the prime minister said lawmakers in the Diet will handle the matter.
If the allegation proves true, it could deal a further blow to both Takebe and Koizumi, who once praised Horie as a young entrepreneur capable of changing the nation’s business culture.
Takebe has been criticized by the opposition for effectively backing Horie during the poll, though he was not officially supported by the LDP.
Horie and three other Livedoor executives were indicted Monday for alleged securities law violations involving subsidiary Livedoor Marketing Co.
Bail sought for Horie
A lawyer for former Livedoor Co. President Takafumi Horie said Thursday he applied to the Tokyo District Court the same day for his client’s release on bail.
Horie has been in custody since he was arrested on Jan. 23 with three other now former Livedoor executives over alleged securities law violations.
The court will decide on the bail request after hearing the views of the lawyer and the special investigative team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Horie has denied any wrongdoing, but the three others have apparently owned up to most of the charges and to Horie’s involvement.