A woman who allegedly lent her name to a former lawmaker to be fraudulently registered for monetary gain has said she never went to the politician’s office or advised her by phone, as has been claimed, sources said Thursday.

Yoshie Sasaki, who was registered as a policy secretary for former House of Representatives lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto, made the statement to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, the sources said.

This would contradict Tsujimoto’s Diet testimony that her female aides had actually worked for her.

Tsujimoto was arrested July 18 for allegedly misusing government funds earmarked for secretarial pay. She has denied committing any fraud.

The 43-year-old politician appeared as an unsworn witness before the Lower House Budget Committee in April 2002. There, she acknowledged that a former close aide to Social Democratic Party chief Takako Doi introduced the women to her, but she denied the SDP as a group was involved.

Sasaki, 56, was also arrested for alleged fraud. She is believed to have received 77,000 yen a month from October 1996 to March 1997 in the scheme. The other policy secretary in question, a 49-year-old woman, is believed to have received 50,000 yen a month from April 1997 to December 1998.

That woman is also suspected of fraud and the police expect to send papers on her to prosecutors. She has admitted to the allegations, they said.

Tsujimoto was an outspoken policy chief for the minor opposition SDP and was known for her blistering attacks on ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers involved in bribery and other scandals.

Two days before the Diet testimony, Sasaki met Tsujimoto and others to discuss how the lawmaker should answer questions, according to the sources.

The others at the meeting included Keiko Umezawa, a 44-year-old former public secretary to Tsujimoto, and the 49-year-old woman. Umezawa was arrested with Tsujimoto and Sasaki.

Also arrested Friday was 66-year-old Masako Goto, a former policy secretary for Doi. Goto is alleged to have introduced Sasaki and the 49-year-old woman to Tsujimoto.

The 49-year-old was a private secretary to former House of Councilors lawmaker Kantoku Teruya when Goto approached her about using her name to get government money, the sources said.

She rarely went to Tsujimoto’s office and simply advised Tsujimoto over the phone, they said. After becoming public secretary for Teruya in December 1998, the woman stopped allowing her name to be used, saying she wanted to focus on her job.

Tsujimoto resigned from her seat in the Lower House in March 2002 after the scandal surfaced. She has since stressed that she had frequently received advice from the women by phone.

But the sources said the idea of claiming she received phone advice from them was put forth by Tsujimoto at their meeting before the Diet testimony.

The investigators suspect Tsujimoto paid her two female secretaries only a fraction of the money the government allocated to her for their salaries and used the rest to run her office, according to the sources.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.