• Kyodo

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Two former senior officials of the Liberal Democratic Party’s prefectural chapter in Nagasaki pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally demanding political donations for last year’s gubernatorial election.

Goro Asada, 65, who was secretary general of the chapter, and Jitsuo Yasuda, 65, who headed its secretariat, admitted to the charges against them as their trial opened at the Nagasaki District Court.

Asada and Yasuda are accused of asking the Nagasaki branch of an association of construction firms in November 2001 to contribute 50 million yen toward the February 2002 election.

They also allegedly asked for donations in November and December 2001 from eight construction firms, including Tokyo-based Wakachiku Construction Co., which had public works contracts with the Nagasaki Prefectural Government.

In addition, Asada and Yasuda are accused of falsifying a political funds report by claiming the Nagasaki chapter received 126 million yen in donations in 2001 when it had actually received 140 million yen.

Yasuda allegedly falsified a similar report for 2000 by claiming that a fundraising party resulted in contributions of about 170 million yen, some 30 million yen less than the actual amount.

Asada, a former member of the prefectural assembly, is accused of demanding bribes from Shimizu Corp., one of the nation’s biggest construction firms, in August 2001 in return for favorable treatment in contracts for a dam construction project.

It is the first case in which prosecutors have charged people who handled donations at political parties with violating the Public Offices Election Law, which bans the solicitation of donations to fund election campaigns.

In their opening statement, prosecutors said there have been extreme cases in the past in which construction firms that rejected requests for donations from the Nagasaki chapter were unable to win contracts for prefectural public works projects.

They said it had been a tradition for top officials to seek contributions when they visited the Kyushu branches of general contractors.

Although he pleaded guilty to the charges, Asada told a news conference afterward donation problems did not begin during his tenure.

“Past secretaries general have also done this,” he said, adding that he believed it was “his fate” to be the one charged with the wrongdoing.

He acknowledged that actions he believed were for the good of the party effectively led to a loss of public trust.

“It was wrong to ignore the law and run around collecting political donations for elections,” he said.

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