National

Dental group donation set to result in charges

Prosecutors are set to establish a case against a former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and two others on suspicion of embezzlement disguised as a political donation, according to informed sources.

Yukihiro Yoshida, 42, who lost his Diet seat in the House of Representatives election in November, and two former executives of the Japan Dental Association allegedly misappropriated tens of millions of yen earmarked as a donation to Yoshida from the association’s political arm in summer 2002.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office plans to take action against the dentist-turned-lawmaker and the two others — Sadao Usuda, 73, a former chairman of the association, and Hirotake Uchida, 63, its former director — shortly after Sunday’s House of Councilors election, according to the sources.

They said that investigators suspect Usuda and Uchida tapped into the JDA’s political arm on the pretext of donating the money to Yoshida, and then used the funds for private purposes.

Part of the money was spent on Usuda’s campaign for re-election as chairman of the dental association chairman in 2003, the sources said.

In his first election in 2000, Usuda won by 19 votes over his closest contender, but in the 2003 race he won easily, defeating his rival 107 votes to 34.

Usuda and Uchida have already been indicted in a separate bribery case involving a former Social Insurance Agency chief. Usuda has since resigned as head of the association.

During earlier questioning by prosecutors, Usuda denied using the money for his re-election campaign and insisted that the funds were used in the process of selecting a candidate who the dental association is supporting in Sunday’s Upper House election, according to the sources.

In the deal involving Yoshida, the money from the association’s political body was initially given to Yoshida but was later channeled back to Usuda as secret funds, the sources said.

Prosecutors suspect Yoshida of complicity in the embezzlement because he cooperated with Usuda and Uchida even though he knew of their intentions, they said.

Campaign crackdown

Police nationwide prepared to launch investigations into suspected violations of the Public Offices Election Law as campaigning wound up for the Upper House election, investigation sources said Saturday.

Investigators are focusing on roughly 100 suspected cases of campaign violations, including vote-buying and other offenses, and plan to question about 200 campaign staff for candidates in Sunday’s election.

In the previous Upper House election in 2001, police launched probes into about 200 suspected offenses immediately after voting ended.

According to the National Police Agency, 31 people have been arrested in 42 suspected violations of the election law in 18 prefectures. Of the 42 cases, 40 concerned illegal interference in speeches and other campaign activities by candidates and their staff.

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