Ozawa expected to duck charges

Kyodo News

Prosecutors are expected Thursday to announce they will not charge Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa over the alleged falsification of political funds reports in connection with a shady Tokyo land deal, even though a fellow DPJ member now under arrest has implicated the party kingpin.

Tokyo prosecutors quizzed Ozawa twice after receiving a formal criminal complaint from a civic group urging them to indict him for allegedly conspiring with his aides, three of whom have been arrested, to falsify fund reports in connection with a 2004 land purchase in Setagaya Ward.

Prosecutors Thursday must either release or charge the three current and former secretaries to Ozawa, including Tomohiro Ishikawa, the DPJ Lower House member, over the alleged falsification of annual reports for Rikuzankai, Ozawa’s fund management body.

Of the three, the prosecutors are likely to charge Ishikawa, 36, and Takanori Okubo, 48, another secretary, with violating the Political Funds Control Law, sources said.

The prosecutors have yet to determine the extent of involvement of Mitsutomo Ikeda, 32, who succeeded Ishikawa as Ozawa’s secretary and has also been arrested.

Separately Wednesday night, a government source said Ishikawa will probably leave the DPJ in an apparent bid to minimize the political damage to the party.

The prosecutors arrested the three aides to Ozawa last month on suspicion of failing to enter income and expenses related to the land purchase in annual reports for Rikuzankai in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

Ishikawa has told the prosecutors he had obtained Ozawa’s approval for the falsifications, the sources said.

During questioning with the prosecutors, however, Ozawa denied his involvement in the falsified reports.

Okubo was charged separately last spring in connection with Rikuzankai’s alleged receipt of illegal political donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co.

The prosecutors believe that even if they indict Ozawa, it would be hard to convict him of conspiracy in falsifying the political funds report with the mere testimony of Ishikawa and without more compelling evidence, the sources said.

Ozawa has told the investigators the ¥400 million used to buy the land in October 2004 was part of his private assets.

But the prosecutors suspect the ¥400 million included ¥50 million secretly provided by Mizutani Construction Co., a subcontractor on a project to build Isawa Dam in Iwate Prefecture, Ozawa’s constituency.