• Kyodo

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A former secretary general of the Nagasaki prefectural chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party was arrested Wednesday over suspected illegal campaign donations, prosecutors said.

The Nagasaki District Public Prosecutor’s Office said Goro Asada, a 65-year-old former member of the prefectural assembly, is suspected of illegally asking construction companies with public works contracts with the Nagasaki Prefectural Government to make political donations in connection with the gubernatorial election in February 2002.

The LDP backed incumbent Gov. Genjiro Kaneko in the election, and investigation authorities determined that the funds provided to the chapter at Asada’s request were intended for the party’s gubernatorial campaign.

It is the first case in which investigative authorities have arrested people in charge of donations at political parties with violating the Public Offices Election Law, the prosecutors said.

Also arrested was Jitsuo Yasuda, 64, the head of the chapter’s secretariat.

According to investigations, Asada and Yasuda visited about 30 construction firms in December 2001 and asked them to make political donations.

Seven of the firms donated a total of 19 million yen to the chapter by January 2002.

All seven had previously received construction orders from the prefectural government. The election law prohibits organizations and individuals that have business contracts with public entities from making political donations in national or local elections.

Before arresting Asada and Yasuda, prosecutors searched the office of the LDP Nagasaki chapter as well as the head offices and local branches of 11 construction firms. According to sources, in one of the searches, they seized the minutes of a December 2001 meeting of a local construction industry association, which shows that Asada requested the donations, saying the LDP needed money “for the gubernatorial race.”

The prosecutors said Yasuda has more or less admitted to violating the law, while Asada has admitted asking the companies to make political donations but insisted that the requests were not illegal, claiming that the money was not intended for use in the campaign for the gubernatorial election.

Until resigning as a prefectural assembly member in late December, Asada had denied making requests for political donations.

Asada underwent voluntarily questioning by investigative authorities several times in December and earlier this month. On Wednesday, the prosecutors asked Asada to turn himself in to their office, the sources said.

Also on Wednesday, the prosecutors searched the Kyushu branch office in Fukuoka of leading construction contractor Shimizu Corp.

Investigators have learned that Shimizu and several other construction firms have handed millions of yen each in off-the-books money to the LDP’s Nagasaki chapter, and prosecutors are looking into the broader picture of the flow of dubious money linked to the chapter, the sources said.

In the February 2002 election, Kaneko won re-election by defeating a Japanese Communist Party contender in a landslide after securing support from most of the major political parties.

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