Nishimatsu linked to dubious donations

Kyodo News

The arrested former vice president of Nishimatsu Construction Co. once headed a key department linked to two political organizations that provided questionable funds to a number of politicians from both the ruling and opposition camps, investigative sources said Thursday.

Keiji Fujimaki, 68, who was arrested Wednesday, headed the department, called the control headquarters, for about three years starting in June 2003, when he was appointed senior managing director in charge of the major contractor’s overseas operations.

The two political groups, each headed by a retired Nishimatsu official, provided a total of ¥480 million in the form of donations and fundraising party tickets to politicians under instructions from Nishimatsu during 12 years through 2006, the sources said.

Among the recipients of such funds from 2004 to 2006 were fund management bodies of former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, the top opposition party. A political organization of Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai is also known to have accepted the funds as well, they said.

On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Fujimaki and three others on suspicion of violating foreign-exchange regulations for allegedly bringing in ¥70 million in funds from abroad without reporting them to customs authorities.

Nominally, the Nishimatsu-linked political groups collected membership fees from manager-level officials and provided the money to politicians under instructions from Nishimatsu’s civil engineering and construction departments through the management headquarters, according to the sources.

Investigators at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office suspect some of the funds brought home from abroad and not logged in the company’s ledgers might have been used for the political donations and ticket purchases by the two political groups.

The Political Funds Control Law bans corporations from providing funds to political bodies other than parties or their fund management bodies. Legal experts said Nishimatsu may have used the political organizations as a front and their donations may have infringed on that law.

Fujimaki is suspected of bringing home about ¥100 million in slush funds, mainly kickbacks from subcontractors, from abroad between October 2005 and August 2007.

Of the ¥100 million, the state established a criminal case against Fujimaki for ¥70 million as the statute of limitations has already run out for the remaining ¥30 million.

Arrested with Fujimaki were Kazuhiko Takahara, 63, a former deputy head of Nishimatsu’s overseas business department, Yoshinobu Murata, 55, a deputy head of Nishimatsu’s overseas operations, and Takashi Utsunomiya, 67, a former president of Nishimatsu subsidiary Shoei Real Estate Co.

Nishimatsu Construction Co. and a Thai firm were earlier reported to have given a total of ¥400 million in bribes to a local Bangkok official to secure a contract to build a drainage system.