National

Dental donation scandal widens

Former Lower House speaker admits accepting funds

Tamisuke Watanuki, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, has admitted to accepting a 5 million yen donation from the scandal-tainted Japan Dental Association, his office said Saturday.

Former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takao Fujimoto, a former Lower House member, meanwhile has acknowledged that he received a total of 7 million yen through donations and other forms from the association, his office said.

The developments came after investigative sources said late last week that the Liberal Democratic Party’s biggest faction led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto allegedly accepted a check for 100 million yen from the association’s political arm prior to the 2001 House of Councilors election.

Watanuki’s and Fujimoto’s offices have already corrected their political funds reports by listing the donations.

Both Watanuki and Fujimoto have said they are conducting investigations into the matter since it was revealed in February that their political funds reports had no mention of receiving money from the association.

According to the association’s financial statement, the group donated 5 million yen to an LDP chapter in Toyama Prefecture, headed by Watanuki, on June 21, 2000.

An official at Watanuki’s office said a local accountant neglected to list it on the political funds report, adding the office corrected the report in February this year.

As for Fujimoto, the association’s financial statement shows the group provided him with a total of 7 million yen in March and June 2000.

Noting that a person in charge at the time has since died, an official in Fujimoto’s office said the reason for the failure to list the money on the political funds report is not known. He said the office corrected the report in March.

Meanwhile, the association’s financial statement was found to provide apparently incorrect information about its purchase of political fundraising party tickets worth 1 million yen in November 2002 from a support group of Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi, a Lower House member from the LDP’s coalition ally, the New Komeito party.

An official of Sakaguchi’s office said the association bought tickets worth 200,000 yen twice and paid 1 million yen, after which Sakaguchi’s office returned 600,000 yen.

Sakaguchi’s office did not list the money on its political funds report because it is not obligatory to report the acceptance of amounts of 200,000 yen or less at one time, adding it filed a protest with the association about this.

In the Hashimoto case, the 100 million yen is viewed as a political donation from the group’s political arm to the Hashimoto faction, but the money was not listed in the faction’s political funds report.

Lawmakers present

Veteran lawmakers Hiromu Nonaka and Mikio Aoki were present when former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto allegedly received a donation from the Japan Dental Association in 2001, sources said Saturday, quoting a former head of the group.

Sadao Usuda, 73, then chairman of the scandal-tainted association, who has said he handed a check for 100 million yen to Hashimoto in a Tokyo restaurant, has told prosecutors the then influential Liberal Democratic Party members were also there, the sources said.

Usuda has been indicted on a bribery charge and is under arrest on suspicion of embezzlement.

Aoki, secretary general of the LDP’s caucus in the House of Councilors, told Kyodo News he is acquainted with Usuda but does not remember whether he was at the restaurant that night.

Aoki has up to now been a senior member of the largest LDP faction led by Hashimoto. Nonaka was also in the faction until he retired from politics, declining to run in a House of Representatives election in November.

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