One of the two dummy groups that funneled political funds from Nishimatsu Construction Co. to the fund management body of Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa only donated to his group in the three years before it disbanded in 2006, company sources said Wednesday.
This seems to indicate it functioned as a front group solely to funnel money to Ozawa’s fund management body, Rikuzankai, during that period, the sources said.
The dummy entity, Mirai Sangyo Kenkyu Kai (Future Industry Study Group), was set up in 1998 and headed by a former employee of Nishimatsu, the contractor at the center of the scandal.
Prosecutors suspect Takanori Okubo, the chief secretary to Ozawa who was arrested last week, was involved in the process of setting up Mirai Sangyo Kenkyu Kai.
Okubo is being held on suspicion of taking ¥21 million in illegal donations from Nishimatsu, via the dummy entities, from 2003 to 2006 and falsely reporting them as legitimate donations in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.
The other dummy group, Shin Seiji Mondai Kenkyu Kai (New Political Issue Study Group), was set up in 1995.
Ozawa’s side consulted with Nishimatsu in establishing Shin Seiji Mondai Kenkyu Kai to funnel around ¥25 million a year to Rikuzankai, according to sources.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have questioned a DPJ lawmaker on a voluntary basis in connection with donations to organizations linked to Ozawa, investigative sources said Wednesday.
House of Representatives member Tomohiro Ishikawa, 35, was a former secretary to Ozawa and was once in charge of donation-related paperwork for Rikuzankai.
The fundraising scandal has hit the opposition party hard as it hopes to wrestle power from the ruling bloc via a general election to be held by fall, against the backdrop of the sagging popularity of the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Ozawa hinted Tuesday that he will make a decision about resigning, if the scandal looks to hurt the DPJ in the election.
It is believed Ishikawa, who became a secretary for Ozawa in 1996 and won a seat in the Diet in March 2007, worked with Okubo for several years at Rikuzankai. Ishikawa’s name appears as the person in charge of clerical work in Rikuzankai’s political funds report from 2000 to 2004.
Ishikawa said his job at Rikuzankai included crafting political funds reports and issuing bills and receipts, plus soliciting fundraising party tickets.
The prosecutors are expected to confirm if he was aware of the possible illegal situation involving the Nishimatsu-related donations, the investigative sources said earlier.
“It was impossible to know that the donations were coming from Nishimatsu Construction,” Ishikawa told reporters earlier.
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