The Tokyo District Court will issue its verdict Thursday in the trial of former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, who stands accused of violating the Political Funds Control Law.
Ozawa heads the ruling DPJ’s largest faction and adamantly opposes the sales tax hike being pursued by the party president, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, thus the verdict could impact Noda’s agenda.
The trial has focused on whether Ozawa, 69, conspired with three former aides, including lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, to submit false reports for the kingpin’s Rikuzankai fund management body in connection with a land purchase in 2004. The verdict session will convene at 10 a.m.
Ozawa, who headed the DPJ from April 2006 to May 2009, when the party was the main opposition force, has denied being involved in any conspiracy, claiming he left everything in the hands of his secretaries.
Since the court, presided over by Judge Fumio Daizen, has already rejected Ishikawa’s depositions in which he acknowledged reporting to and receiving approval from Ozawa over the false reporting, there is no clear direct evidence to establish Ozawa’s involvement.
The court deemed the depositions not credible, saying prosecutors used illegal tactics to obtain them. Ozawa was indicted based on the decision of a prosecution inquest panel.
A team of lawyers, serving as prosecutors in the trial, sought a prison term of three years without labor for Ozawa, arguing the former aides could not have engaged in false reporting without his approval.
Ozawa’s counsel has meanwhile denied any false reporting occurred, as there is no other evidence to substantiate a conspiracy. His counsel has demanded that the charge be dismissed.
It will be the first ruling on a politician based on a mandatory indictment by court-appointed lawyers since the Inquest of Prosecution Law was revised in May 2009 to make it possible to level charges against someone if a panel of citizens twice overrides decisions by prosecutors not to pursue a trial.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office chose not to indict Ozawa. Ozawa stands accused of conspiring with Ishikawa and two other former aides not to list a ¥400 million loan to Rikuzankai in its political funds report for 2004, and listing ¥350 million for the land purchase in a 2005 funds report although it should have been recorded in the 2004 report.
Ishikawa and the two other former secretaries, Takanori Okubo and Mitsutomo Ikeda, were found guilty of falsifying the fund reports in a separate trial and received suspended prison terms by the district court in September. They have appealed their verdicts.
Ozawa is a 14-term veteran House of Representatives lawmaker elected from Iwate Prefecture. He wielded political clout before and after the DPJ’s victory over the Liberal Democratic Party in the 2009 general election.
Sengoku to get apology
The Tokyo High Court ordered Shinchosha Publishing Co. Tuesday to issue a public apology for harming the reputation of veteran lawmaker Yoshito Sengoku and to pay ¥3.3 million in damages.
Sengoku, acting chairman of ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s Policy Research Committee, sued Shinchosha for ¥11.5 million and restorative action, arguing that a magazine article published by the company gave the public the false impression that he had ties with the underworld.
In the libel suit, the high court more than tripled the amount of damages decided by a lower court and added the public apology order.
Presiding Judge Toshifumi Shibata said, “the magazine article conveys the impression that the plaintiff was involved in criminal activities, and, taking into consideration that he was then in one of the most important political positions in the country, it dishonored his social reputation considerably.” Sengoku was chief Cabinet secretary at the time.
The story, which was published in the Oct. 21 edition of the Shukanshincho weekly magazine in 2010, said Sengoku had forged official documents while he was working as a lawyer and “moving like a worm between a big mob boss and a financial broker with (a) criminal history.”
The publisher vowed to appeal, saying the ruling is by no means acceptable because it is not based on evidence.