National

Four-year term sought for Suzuki

Alleged bribe-taking could cost ex-lawmaker time, fine

Prosecutors demanded a four-year prison term and 11 million yen fine Wednesday for former House of Representatives member Muneo Suzuki for allegedly accepting 11 million yen in bribes from two Hokkaido companies.

Suzuki, 56, is charged with conspiring with his secretary, Jun Tada, to receive 6 million yen in bribes from Shimada Kensetsu, a Hokkaido construction company, in 1997, and 5 million yen in bribes from Yamarin, a Hokkaido timber company, in 1998.

Shimada Kensetsu allegedly asked Suzuki, who was a member of the Cabinet and serving as Hokkaido Development Agency chief at that time, to help it win public works orders.

Yamarin asked Suzuki, while he was serving as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, to request that the Forestry Agency bestow the firm with favorable treatment, the indictment says.

Suzuki has pleaded not guilty. He claims the money was given to him as a congratulatory gesture following his appointment as deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

Prosecutors said in their closing argument at the Tokyo District Court that his rebuttals cannot be accepted as the truth.

“The bribes were taken to secure supporters and funds to increase his power as a politician,” the prosecution said in a statement. “It was a selfish and self-centered crime.”

The closing argument also described the alleged crime as “extremely malicious and serious” because the behavior of Suzuki, as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, degraded the administration’s integrity.

In April, the district court sentenced Tada, 52, to two years in prison, suspended for four years, for accepting the bribes on Suzuki’s behalf and violating the Political Funds Control Law. Tada has appealed.

Suzuki was a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but left the LDP in March 2002 before his arrest in June that year.

He refused to resign from the Lower House, only to automatically lose his seat when the lower chamber was dissolved in October for the Nov. 9 general election. He was released on bail last August and tried to run in the November race by forming a new political group. But he abandoned the idea because he had to undergo surgery for stomach cancer.

Suzuki ran in Sunday’s House of Councilors election as an independent from the Hokkaido constituency. He failed to win a seat.

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