A former aide to arrested Lower House member Muneo Suzuki was handed a suspended 16-month prison term Monday for interfering in the bidding for a state-funded project on Kunashiri Island and conspiring with Suzuki to hide 100 million yen in donations.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced 55-year-old Akira Miyano, who served as a state-paid secretary to Suzuki, to 16 months in prison, suspended for three years. Prosecutors had demanded an 18-month prison term, while Miyano had pleaded not guilty.

The court ruled that Miyano conspired with Suzuki to falsify a political funding report for 1998 — in violation of the Political Funds Control Law — by omitting 100 million yen in donations to Suzuki, then a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Suzuki and his policy secretary, 51-year-old Jun Tada, are also on trial on that charge and have pleaded not guilty.

“The falsification caused the people to distrust politics by putting as much as some 100 million yen in income off the books,” presiding Judge Toshiya Matsuda said in handing down the ruling.

Miyano had claimed he was unaware of the falsification. The court ruled, however, that he had joined the conspiracy by approving a report by another secretary that she would not write down the 100 million yen in donations as income.

The judge dismissed prosecutors’ allegations that Miyano conspired with Suzuki to hide 36 million yen used by Suzuki to buy his home, citing insufficient evidence.

Miyano was also convicted of interfering in July 1999 in the bidding for the Kunashiri project by passing information to a joint venture formed by two construction firms.

As a result, the public bidding process ended in failure and the joint venture was awarded a 397 million yen negotiated contract to build the House of Friendship as part of Japan’s aid project on Kunashiri, one of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.

The building, dubbed “Muneo House” after Suzuki, was erected later in 1999.

“The interference in bidding is illegal in a degree beyond the act as an intermediary and betrays the incorruptibility required of a lawmaker’s secretary,” remarked the judge.

“He was proposing to exclude competitors even by using the name of Suzuki’s office if necessary, and the conspiracy with the local firms is obvious.”

Matsuda thus dismissed Miyano’s assertion that he was not involved.

According to the prosecution team, Miyano, who served a close aide to Suzuki since the lawmaker was first elected in 1983 from Hokkaido, directed the scheme in an effort to generate profits for the two Hokkaido-based firms, which made political donations to Suzuki.

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