Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors demanded Friday that Ichiro Ozawa be sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly violating the Political Funds Control Law.
During the 15th session of the former Democratic Party of Japan president’s trial at the Tokyo District Court, the prosecutors charged that Ozawa should be held criminally responsible for conspiring with three of his former secretaries, including independent lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, to falsify his political fund management body’s reports in 2004 and 2005 over a ¥400 million land deal in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
In seeking the three-year prison term, the prosecutors described Ozawa’s actions as “vicious” and said he was likely to be a repeat offender.
“It was a well-planned crime and they used shrewd maneuvering skills, and there is no other word to describe it but vicious,” the court-appointed lawyers said. “Ozawa has repeatedly denied the allegations with irrational statements in order to avoid criminal charges and has shown no sign of remorse. His moral standards are numb and it cannot help but be said that there is a great possibility that he would commit crimes again.”
But there is little evidence with which the prosecutors can try to prove Ozawa’s guilt. Just last month, the court rejected key depositions of Ozawa’s former aides as evidence after ruling the prosecutors’ interrogation methods were “illegal and unjust.” The court-appointed lawyers, however, stressed that the case against Ozawa still had merit.
Even if it is found that certain evidence lacks credibility during court proceedings, there is no way that the prosecutors’ decision to indict would be reversed or the charges against the defendant would be dropped, the lawyers said in their closing statement.
Ozawa’s defense team will give its closing statement March 19. The ruling is expected to be handed down at the end of April.
After Friday’s session, Ozawa’s lawyers criticized the court-appointed prosecutors for basing their closing statement largely on suspicions rather than evidence.
“With very little evidence, it sounded to me like they chose one scenario out of a few possibilities and said the defendant conspired” with his former secretaries, said Toru Akiyama, one of Ozawa’s attorneys.
Ozawa, who has maintained he is innocent, argued that the financial reports were completely in the hands of his secretaries and that he never checked them.
Former secretaries Ishikawa and Mitsutomo Ikeda originally admitted during prosecutors’ interrogations that they had reported to Ozawa about the funding reports. Later, they both said they were forced to sign the erroneous statements written by the prosecutors. Presiding Judge Fumio Daizen recognized that Ishikawa’s statement was coerced, which came to light because Ishikawa had secretly taped one of the sessions, but accepted Ikeda’s deposition as evidence.
During Friday’s session, the acting prosecutors slammed Ozawa’s testimony as “completely unreliable” and “irrational,” pointing out that Ikeda testified that he reported to Ozawa on the 2005 funding report.
But without much other evidence, they introduced a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that recognized that a gang boss criminally conspired with his bodyguards to be armed with guns even though there was no evidence of a time, date or place where the conspiracy actually took place.
“If the person in charge was in a position to give (his or her) subordinate orders to stop taking criminal action (but) knowingly approved it . . . the boss can be held criminally accountable for conspiracy,” the prosecutors said. “And in this case, there is no doubt that the defendant was in a position to give Ishikawa orders and to stop him from committing a crime.”
The three former aides, including Ishikawa, were convicted in September in a separate trial and received suspended prison terms. They have appealed to the Tokyo High Court.
Regular prosecutors did not indict Ozawa because of lack of evidence, but an independent judicial panel decided twice that Ozawa should be indicted and his trial kicked off in October.