The Tokyo High Court on Thursday cut six months off former Lower House member Yojiro Nakajima’s 21/2-year prison sentence but upheld the 10 million yen fine imposed by the lower court following his conviction for bribe-taking, vote-buying and other charges.
During his Tokyo District Court trial, Nakajima, 41, pleaded guilty to all five charges against him. The lower court handed down its ruling in July 1999.
His lawyers appealed the sentence to the high court, seeking a suspended sentence because the defendant had expressed remorse.
In reducing the prison term, Judge Yoshimasa Kawabe said the court took into account that Nakajima apologized to the public during his court hearings and has been punished socially.
The lower court ruled that he received 5 million yen in bribes from Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. for favors in the development of a Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft.
Nakajima, who resigned from the Diet in January 1999 after his arrest, was also found guilty of vote-buying in the 1996 general election, using the money given to him by Fuji Heavy.
Nakajima is a grandson of Chikuhei Nakajima, founder of Nakajima Aircraft Industries Ltd., the wartime predecessor of Fuji Heavy, which makes Subaru vehicles.
The lower court found him guilty of falsifying statements on the use of public subsidies for political activities and defrauding the state of 10 million yen for the salary of a fictitious secretary.
Nakajima pleaded guilty to all charges during the lower court trial but immediately appealed the case to the higher court, saying the sentence was too harsh.
His lawyers asked that the sentence be suspended, saying Nakajima had repented fully for his crimes.
Nakajima’s case became the first major political scandal after the Diet approved a series of political reform bills introducing the single-seat constituency system and authorized public subsidies for political activities in 1994.
Noting that Nakajima bought votes in the first election following the reforms, the high court Thursday said he betrayed “the idea of political reform for clean politics.”
Commenting on the bribery and fraud charges, the high court said Nakajima bears grave criminal responsibility for betraying the public’s trust in politics.
Dressed in a black suit, Nakajima kept his head down while listening to the 15-minute high court ruling.
Nakajima, a former NHK reporter who was first elected to the Diet in 1992, received 5 million yen in cash to help Fuji Heavy increase its share in a project to develop an MSDF search-and-rescue seaplane in October 1996, according to the court.
He was parliamentary vice minister of the Defense Agency at the time.
The trials of two former Fuji executives accused of extending the bribes to Nakajima are pending before the Tokyo District Court.
Nakajima gave 20 million yen to three leaders of a support group in his Gunma constituency to buy votes for him in the 1996 general election.
After the election, Nakajima handed a further 200,000 yen to two of the leaders as remuneration for helping him win more votes, the court said.
In addition, Nakajima in 1998 swindled the state out of 10 million yen intended to cover the salary of a secretary, who was not in fact working at the time, and pocketed 5.2 million yen of the total to buy suits and pay his office employees, it said.
In an attempt to hide the misappropriations of political subsidies, Nakajima, in conspiracy with his campaign workers and secretary, falsified the accounting report he submitted to the Home Affairs Ministry, it said.
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