Former Ozawa aide denies involvement in funds fraud

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff Writer

A former aide to Ichiro Ozawa claimed in court Wednesday that he was never involved in drafting or submitting the political funds statements of the Democratic Party of Japan power broker’s political funds management body, despite holding the title of secretary in charge of accounting.

Ozawa stands accused of breaking the Political Funds Control Law for allegedly conspiring with his former aides to falsify the funds report of his political funds managing body Rikuzankai in 2004 and 2005 in connection with a land purchase.

Ozawa is pleading not guilty.

At the fifth session of Ozawa’s trial at the Tokyo District Court, Takanori Okubo, 50, testified that even though he was appointed by Ozawa to handle the accounting, in reality another aide, Tomohiro Ishikawa, actually worked on the books, and that he was never consulted about Rikuzankai’s finances.

“That was how things were done when I joined the Ozawa office, so I just stuck to precedents,” he said.

Establishing whether Okubo conspired with Ishikawa and his successor, Mitsutomo Ikeda, is one of the key elements of Ozawa’s trial.

In a separate trial, Okubo was convicted in September of conspiring with his subordinates but is appealing the verdict.

Court-appointed lawyers working as prosecutors questioned Okubo about why he initially admitted to prosecutors that he worked with Ishikawa and Ikeda to falsify funds statements.

Okubo testified that he believed admitting to involvement in the conspiracy would allow Ozawa to focus on his political activities.

Ozawa was serving as DPJ president at the time of Okubo’s arrest in March 2009, but he resigned his position in May.

Although Okubo was the one who found a plot of land in Setagaya Ward that Rikuzankai bought to build dormitories on for Ozawa’s secretaries, Okubo said Wednesday he left financial matters to Ishikawa and did not follow the details of the transactions.

“My concern was that we were able to obtain the land, and from there it was up to Ishikawa,” Okubo said.