National

Eight indicted over vote-buying charges

Prosecutors indicted Yukihiro Yoshida, a former Diet member from the Liberal Democratic Party, and seven others Tuesday on charges of buying votes with money that came from the Japan Dental Association.

Charged with giving checks to local assembly members in violation of the Public Offices Election Law were Yoshida, 43, who lost his Diet seat in the House of Representatives election last November; Hirotake Uchida, 63, former director of the dentist group; and Yasushi Miwa, 60, head of the Aichi prefectural dentist association.

The other five are three members of the Aichi Prefectural Assembly and two members of the Nagoya Municipal Assembly.

They were charged with receiving checks for 2 million yen each last fall from Miwa, who was also serving as the chief of a local LDP arm, to round up votes in an effort to help Yoshida win in the election.

The eight have admitted to the charges in principle, according to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Yoshida, formerly a dentist, first won a Lower House seat in 1996 as a member of the now-defunct Shinshinto party and later moved to the New Conservative Party, also now defunct. He switched to the LDP when he was re-elected in 2000.

The prosecutors indicted Yoshida, Uchida and Sadao Usuda, 73, on Aug. 4 for embezzling the association’s money in 2001 to help Usuda’s efforts to be re-elected as JDA chairman in March 2003. Usuda won the association’s chairmanship election in 2000 and was easily re-elected in 2003.

The money was withdrawn from a JDA account as a political donation to Yoshida in late August 2001 and returned to Usuda and Uchida for vote-buying operations in November and December 2002, they said.

The latest charges surfaced during investigations into the embezzlement case, which included looking into the flow of political contributions by the dental association’s political arm.

With the latest indictment, prosecutors working on the scandal involving the dental association are expected to focus on the money that allegedly went to the LDP’s largest faction, led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Hashimoto has resigned as head of the faction over an undeclared 100 million yen donation he allegedly received from officials of the dental association in July 2001.

Although Hashimoto insists he “did not remember” personally receiving the check worth 100 million yen, the faction has admitted it received the money and failed to mention it in the group’s political donations report, a violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

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