Both prosecutors and defense lawyers for Hiromasa Ezoe, founder and former chairman of Recruit Co., said Monday they will not appeal a recent ruling that handed Ezoe a suspended jail term over the so-called Recruit scandal.
The decision, together with a similar one from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, puts to rest a scandal that began in the 1980s.
“Mr. Ezoe does not want the trial to be protracted further, since he has been accused for as long as 14 years,” a lawyer for Ezoe said.
Ezoe consistently pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Both sides had until Tuesday to appeal the March 4 Tokyo District Court decision.
The court sentenced Ezoe, 66, to three years in jail, suspended for five years, for bribing Diet members, elite bureaucrats and top executives of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. in the late 1980s by selling them preflotation shares of a Recruit company.
Twelve people, including former chief Cabinet secretary Takao Fujinami, have been accused of their role in the massive scandal that shook the nation’s political circles, the bureaucracy and the business community.
The 11 other defendants also received suspended jail sentences.
Prosecutors had called for a jail sentence without suspension for Ezoe, who they described as the mastermind behind the scandal. It is believed they decided not to appeal partly because of recent criticism against the nation’s lengthy trial proceedings.
In its ruling, the district court determined that the sale of preflotation shares of Recruit Cosmos Co., the group’s real estate subsidiary, constituted bribery because it was certain that the value of the shares would rise sharply after they were put on the market. Ezoe has insisted that he merely acted as an intermediary for legitimate stock transactions.
The court said there was room for leniency, explaining that Ezoe’s bribes were “less malicious” than bribery with cash.
Tighter controls wanted
Nearly 90 percent of respondents to a weekend Kyodo News poll support tighter controls on political donations from corporations and other entities.
The news agency said Monday that 47.5 percent of respondents advocated a total ban on such donations, while 39.8 percent said that companies with public works contracts should be banned from making political donations.
Kyodo contacted 1,626 randomly selected voters by telephone, receiving valid responses from 1,044.
Just 5.8 percent of respondents expressed the view that no new regulations on political donations are necessary.
The survey results reflect mounting public disquiet over the issue of money and politics, following the recent arrest of Lower House member Takanori Sakai and the suspected involvement of former aides to farm minister Tadamori Oshima in financial scandals.
Around 80 percent of survey respondents said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has failed to handle corruption involving Diet members in an appropriate fashion. Just 11.9 percent said Koizumi has dealt with these matters appropriately.
Legal changes that took effect in January 2000 outlaw corporate donations to individual politicians.
But donations to local political party branches, which are headed by lawmakers elected from local constituencies, are effectively viewed as money offered to the lawmakers themselves, rather than donations to the political parties to which they belong.
In May, four opposition parties jointly submitted a bill that would ban donations from companies that have government contracts for public works projects.
No Diet vote has yet been taken on the bill.
According to Kyodo, 39.1 percent of respondents cited the “quality of politicians” as the biggest factor behind Diet corruption, and 19.8 percent blamed the structure of political parties and the existence of party factions.
About 13 percent blamed the attitude of voters, while 7.4 percent laid the blame to the nation’s electoral system.
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