In a sudden reversal, former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose admitted Friday that the ¥50 million loan he received from the Tokushukai hospital group was intended to get him through the 2012 gubernatorial election.
“It was true that I was intending to use the money to finance my political campaign for fear my own funds might run short,” Inose said at a press conference. “So there was undeniably a political aspect to the loan.”
It was a busy day for the prize-winning author and critic. Prosecutors started by filing criminal charges against him. Then he was fined ¥500,000 by the Tokyo Summary Court for by failing to report the loan to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government election board for the December 2012 election.
Filing false reports with the election board is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to ¥500,000.
Inose, 67, resigned as governor in December as criticism grew over the money, making him the shortest-serving Tokyo governor in history. He is known to have met with the founder of the Tokushukai group, Torao Tokuda, 76, at a Tokushukai hospital in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Nov. 6, 2012.
Two weeks later, Inose received ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda’s son Takeshi, 42, who was a Lower House lawmaker at the time. Inose returned the money to Tokuda’s wife, Hideko, 75, on Sept. 25, 2013, after prosecutors opened an investigation into Takeshi Tokuda during the December 2012 Lower House election.
Torao Tokuda told prosecutors he gave the money to Inose to fund his campaign.
Inose had previously said on a number of occasions that the money was a personal loan. But he later reversed himself and told investigators he accepted the Tokushukai group’s explanation that the funds were for the Tokyo gubernatorial race, according to sources familiar with the matter.
As for his repeated assertions that the debt was for personal purposes, which exempts it from the reporting requirement, Inose admitted that it was misleading and that he had “overemphasized” that aspect.
He also said some of his past remarks were based on his “fading memory” and that he at times went so far as to convince himself that he “never would have committed such a misdeed.”
Members of several citizens’ groups filed a complaint with prosecutors against Inose on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Law.
His receipt of the Tokushukai funds surfaced as prosecutors were probing Takeshi Tokuda’s election case, which was linked to the use of Tokushukai staff in his election campaign.
After becoming vice governor in 2007, Inose said that he would use his strong sense of mission to wholeheartedly devote himself to making Tokyo a better place.
“So I honestly don’t know why I did such a thing,” he said. “I’m spending every single day overwhelmed with remorse and guilt.”
He also said of Hideko, his wife, who died in July 2013 of an illness, that “I can’t feel regretful enough for losing her without ever getting to apologize for my selfish behavior.”
Inose he said in the future that he would like to return to writing, if “I’m allowed to do so.”