• Kyodo News


Widening their investigation into illegal donations by Nishimatsu Construction Co., prosecutors are turning their attention to senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers with connections to two of the builder’s political organizations, sources said Friday.

Tokyo prosecutors have already started questioning Nishimatsu officials to determine whether accountants of the LDP lawmakers, including Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai, were aware of the illegality of the donations, according to the sources.

Nishimatsu is suspected of using the two organizations as fronts to channel donations to Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa in violation of the Political Funds Control Law, which prohibits corporate donations, except those given to political parties or their fund-managing groups.

According to reports on political funds and other sources, the two Nishimatsu-related organizations purchased around ¥8.4 million worth of tickets for fundraising parties of the LDP faction led by Nikai between 2004 and 2006.

Nikai told reporters Friday morning he believes the purchase is “absolutely not illegal” and does not deserve “any special examination.”

While declining to elaborate, Nikai said, “I was not aware” that the disbanded political organizations were headed by two former executives of the Tokyo-based general contractor. Nikai announced Thursday his faction would return the money obtained from the two groups.

Among LDP lawmakers, the two Nishimatsu-linked organizations also donated ¥4 million and ¥3 million, respectively, to fund-managing bodies of former Finance Minister Koji Omi and ex-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, according to the reports and other sources. Mori has also decided to return the money.

Tokyo prosecutors arrested Ozawa’s secretary, Takanori Okubo, 47, Nishimatsu’s former president and a former senior company employee in connection with the illicit donations earlier this week.

They will consider whether they can build a case against those who work for the LDP lawmakers, the sources said.

No political motive

The probe into alleged illegal donations to Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa is not politically motivated, Justice Minister Eisuke Mori claimed Friday, countering DPJ accusations to the contrary.

Ozawa’s top aide was arrested Tuesday, at a time when a general election has become a hot topic.

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