NARITA, Chiba Pref. — Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa on Feb. 5 flatly denied an allegation that he received money from Tatsuo Tomobe, a House of Councilors member who is under arrest on suspicion of fraud, to ensure Tomobe was elected in the July 1995 Upper House election.

“I never received money from Tomobe in any form,” Hosokawa told reporters at a press conference. “I do not know of any dubious dealings that existed in connection with Tomobe running in the election as an official Shinshinto candidate,” said Hosokawa, a senior member of the party.

Hosokawa said he is willing to cooperate with police in their investigation into Tomobe, who was elected as a Diet member from a proportional representation constituency after failing in four Diet elections between 1983 and 1992. “If the Diet decides to summon me as a sworn witness on the matter, I will comply with the decision and testify,” Hosokawa added.

Hosokawa made the remarks during a press conference held at Narita airport, Chiba Prefecture, soon after he returned from Canada. Hosokawa left Tokyo for Canada last Jan. 30, only hours after Tomobe’s arrest, to attend an international sports event for mentally handicapped people.

Tomobe is suspected of swindling money from Orange Kyosai Kumiai depositors. The mutual aid society was run by members of his family.

It has been reported that Hosokawa bears part of the responsibility for the scandal for having acknowledged Tomobe as an official Shinshinto candidate. Tomobe was put on the party’s candidate priority list for the proportional representation constituency with the support of the former Japan New Party, which was created and headed by Hosokawa.

Since Shinshinto was a new political party born in December 1994 from the merger of eight political parties and one parliamentary group, including the JNP, Shinshinto’s official candidates for the proportional representation section of the July 1995 election were decided through recommendations by the former political parties. But suspicion arose when Tomobe obtained a high ranking — 13th on the list — despite his poor performance in earlier elections. Political observers said they expected the top 15 Shinshinto candidates to win seats.

Shinshinto Secretary General Takeo Nishioka has reiterated that the present Shinshinto leadership does not know why Tomobe obtained such a high ranking, “because it was up to the former JNP to decide who would receive the ranking.”

However, Hosokawa denied being directly involved in the process of selecting the candidate. “I did not know very much about Tomobe. It was just before the election, probably late May or early June 1995, when I met Tomobe for the first time,” Hosokawa said, adding that Kenichiro Hatsumura, a former JNP Lower House member, introduced Tomobe to Hosokawa as an expert on pension-related matters.

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