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In a closed Diet session viewed as an LDP gesture to draw the curtain on a money scandal before the July Upper House elections, the party’s policy head said Friday that he received 225 million yen from an oil dealer as legitimate political donations.

Junichi Izui, an oil wholesaler now on trial on charges of income tax evasion and fraud, has claimed he donated about 278 million yen, including 78 million yen to Taku Yamasaki between 1991 and 1995.

No new facts surfaced during the meeting of the Lower House Council on Political Ethics, convened to look into the alleged illegal donations involving Yamasaki, informed sources said.

In the two-hour session, which was closed to reporters as well as the public and whose minutes will not be made public, Yamasaki denied receiving hefty illegal donations.

Yamasaki said a Liberal Democratic Party faction formerly led by the late Michio Watanabe, a former foreign minister and vice president of the party, received 225 million yen from Izui between 1991 and 1994 through Yamasaki’s political fundraising organization. “The money was used for the political activities of the faction, and I spent none out of it for myself,” Yamasaki told reporters after the session.

He also claimed the donations were reported appropriately to the Home Affairs Ministry under the Law to Regulate Money Used for Political Activities.

During the closed session, Yamasaki also denied that he and Watanabe gave favorable treatment to Izui in connection with granting Mitsubishi Oil Co. the rights to develop an oil field in Vietnam, according to LDP Lower House member Seisuke Okuno, the head of the council.

Yamasaki claimed Izui made the allegation after he refused his request to pressure the National Tax Administration Agency to drop plans to file a complaint with prosecutors alleging the oil dealer had evaded taxes, Okuno said.

In November, Izui said in sworn testimony before the Lower House Budget Committee that he made the donations after Yamasaki asked him to shoulder part of the some 300 million yen necessary for Watanabe to run in the LDP presidential race.

Yamasaki claimed he never made such a request to Izui. Yamasaki also said he believes Izui made the allegation with “a certain political intention” because the claim came shortly before Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto decided to keep him at the post of party policy chief, one of three top positions in the LDP.

Yamasaki told reporters that although the money was dealt with in an appropriate manner, he thinks the general public may regard the “political donation” as too large.

“Elections need huge amounts of money,” he said. “I think Diet members should carefully reconsider the nature of political funds and activities.”

Members of the opposition camp severely criticized the council session, saying it was far from revealing the true story behind the scandal.

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