• Kyodo News


Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa’s aides, including arrested secretary Takanori Okubo, had construction companies get employees to work for Ozawa’s election campaigns, contractor sources said Thursday.

Prosecutors are questioning construction officials in the Tohoku region, Ozawa’s stronghold, on suspicion that such labor was a token of the close ties between the local construction industry and the president of the Democratic Party of Japan, the biggest opposition party.

Ozawa is said to wield strong clout over public works projects in the area, investigative sources said.

Okubo, 47, was arrested last week on suspicion of accepting political donations from groups linked to Nishimatsu Construction Co. Accepting corporate donations is illegal.

Prosecutors are questioning local officials from the general contractors and other construction firms to determine if they donated to Ozawa in the same way Nishimatsu Construction allegedly did, the investigative sources said.

Sources from the general contractors said Ozawa’s aides asked them to compile lists of people who could help him during elections.

The contractors then called on their subcontractors to provide help, the sources said.

The general contractors and subcontractors mobilized employees to hang posters and work campaign meetings, they said.

“We helped of course on weekends and also on weekdays,” an unnamed official at one general contractor said.

Companies usually offered one or two employees each, but Nishimatsu provided five to 10, the sources said.

The employees were mobilized not only for Ozawa, but for Tohoku candidates he supported, they said.

In return for election hands, Nishimatsu may have asked Ozawa’s aides to negotiate favors from another general contractor accepting bids for for public works projects, sources said. Prosecutors are investigating whether Okubo served as an intermediary between Nishimatsu and the other contractor, which has not been identified.

The sources said the general contractor was a regular fixer of bids for large public works projects in Tohoku until several years ago.

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