/

Ex-Your Party head Watanabe faces criminal complaint

Kyodo

Members of a civic group filed a criminal complaint against former Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe over a financial scandal that led him to resign as the head of the minor opposition party, sources close to the matter said.

In the criminal complaint filed Monday, the Osaka-based civic group, which monitors political funds, focused on ¥500 million Watanabe borrowed ahead of the 2012 Lower House election from Yoshiaki Yoshida, chairman of cosmetics firm DHC Corp.

According to the complaint, Watanabe borrowed the money as political funds for Your Party in November 2012, but allegedly only ¥250 million was registered as political funds. The remainder was not included in Watanabe’s report on campaign expenses, leading the group to argue that he probably violated the public offices election law if he borrowed the money for his own election campaign.

Watanabe borrowed ¥800 million in total from Yoshida ahead of the 2010 House of Councillors election and the 2012 House of Representatives election.

Watanabe has so far denied the illegality of his acts, saying that the loans were used to “collect information to expand the party’s strength.”

In an in-house investigation, Your Party has also concluded that the loans from DHC were not used to support Watanabe’s election campaign and denied he violated the election law or political funds control law.

Watanabe founded Your Party with four others in 2009 after leaving the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 2008. The party grew to be a midsize opposition party with 36 Diet members following the Upper House election in July 2013.

However, Your Party suffered a huge setback in December 2013 when more than a third of its members quit and formed the Yui no To, a party headed by Kenji Eda, the party’s former secretary general.