Ozawa aides face charges in fund scam

Kyodo News

Prosecutors may charge two ex-aides of ruling party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa without arrest for allegedly failing to list more than ¥400 million in his funds management body’s 2004 political funds report, sources said Friday.

The two are Lower House member Tomohiro Ishikawa, 36, of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, and Takanori Okubo, 48, a former state-funded secretary to Ozawa.

Ishikawa was one of the secretaries to Ozawa at that time. Ishikawa won a Lower House seat from the Hokkaido proportional representation block for the first time in 2007 and was re-elected in the August 2009 general election.

Both are expected to be indicted on charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law for allegedly failing to list the funds involved in the political funds report.

The funds involved were more than ¥400 million, which was used to purchase a tract of land in Tokyo in October 2004 to build a dormitory for Ozawa’s secretaries.

Ishikawa, who oversaw clerical work at Ozawa’s funds management body, Rikuzankai, at that time, is suspected of having briefed Okubo, who was Rikuzankai’s chief accountant and performed the body’s accounting work in detail.

Okubo has been on trial over a separate case of accounting irregularities involving Rikuzankai and alleged illegal donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co.

During questioning on a voluntary basis by investigators at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, Okubo denied any involvement in Rikuzankai’s purchase of the land in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

He has told the investigators that he looked for land for the dormitory but he was not involved in the purchase process.

The sources said Ishikawa accepted more than ¥400 million in cash from Ozawa to purchase the land in Setagaya Ward around October 2004. But Okubo did not list the funds in Rikuzankai’s report.

Earlier, Ozawa’s office said it received ¥400 million in loans and spent ¥340 million to purchase the land. However, the payment was done just before the management body received the loans, according to investigative sources.

In spring 2007, Rikuzankai paid out ¥400 million to Ozawa but skipped listing the funds flow in its political funds report. The investigators suspect Rikuzankai apparently paid the money back to Ozawa.