Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa indicated Tuesday he will decide whether to resign by March 24 depending on what charges, if any, are brought against his chief secretary, Takanori Okubo.
Prosecutors have until that day to bring charges against Okubo, who was arrested March 3 for allegedly receiving illegal corporate donations.
“There will be a judgment from the prosecutors in the near future. . . . When the judgment is disclosed, I will make a decision about my future,” Ozawa told a news conference.
Okubo was the chief accountant of Ozawa’s funds management body, Rikuzankai, which allegedly received ¥21 million in donations from scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co. between 2003 and 2006.
Corporations are banned by law from donating to individual politicians and instead must give any money to registered political parties or their branches.
According to recent media reports, Okubo and Ozawa may have served as go-betweens for Nishimatsu and another major construction firm that allegedly rigged bids on public works projects in the Tohoku region, Ozawa’s political base.
Two former Nishimatsu officials now under arrest reportedly told investigators the contractor made the donations to Ozawa in hopes of winning contracts in Tohoku.
Ozawa, who denies any wrongdoing, says he is ready to face punishment if any of the alleged illegal acts — other than errors in the political funding reports — are made to stick against himself or his secretary.
“There are no facts against me, and I believe the same is true of Okubo,” Ozawa said, adding he hopes prosecutors will make a “fair judgment.”
Ozawa has said repeatedly the donations were thought to have come from political groups, not the construction firm.
“Based on the Political Funds Control Law, we have been correctly keeping the political funding reports,” Ozawa said.
Spurred by the scandal, the DPJ’s political reform team is set to discuss further restrictions on donations to include in the party platform ahead of the next general election, which must be held by fall. To be discussed is whether the party should propose a bill to ban all donations from companies that have won public works orders.
However, Ozawa noted at Tuesday’s news conference that because numerous companies have business transactions with public bodies it would be difficult to draw a line between those that can and cannot donate funds to a political party.
“I think it would be better to ban donations from all the companies and organizations,” Ozawa said.
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