More guilty pleas over Nishimatsu slush fund


A former official of Nishimatsu Construction Co. pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling roughly ¥45 million from a slush fund allegedly amassed through the firm’s projects in Southeast Asia.

Kazuhiko Takahara, 63, also admitted violating the foreign exchange and foreign trade law by bringing into Japan a total of ¥70 million in cash from the firm’s slush fund on five separate occasions in 2006 and 2007 without reporting the money to customs authorities.

Prosecutors want Takahara sentenced to 2 1/2 years. His lawyer asked for a suspended term. The court will hand down its decision Aug. 18.

Takahara went to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office in December 2007 to blow the whistle on the Nishimatsu slush fund, which eventually led to the scandal that saw Ichiro Ozawa resign as president of the Democratic Party of Japan after the arrest of his key secretary.

The prosecutors Wednesday blamed Takahara for not telling them straight off he had embezzled some of the slush fund.

In his defense, Takahara’s lawyer said his client took the money because he was under a great deal of stress for having to play a dark and risky role for the company.

The prosecutors said Takahara, who served as former deputy head of the firm’s overseas business department, embezzled the money from the second-tier construction firm by transferring $300,000 to his account in a bank in the Philippines from a bank in Hong Kong in November 2005.

Prosecutors said the account in Hong Kong was that of a dummy company of Nishimatsu and was being managed by Takahara.

The prosecutors said Takahara embezzled another ¥10 million from the firm’s slush fund in August 2007. All the money he took from Nishimatsu was used to purchase three condominiums in the Philippines, they said.

On Tuesday, the court sentenced Keiji Fujimaki, a former vice president of Nishimatsu and Takahara’s boss, to a suspended four-month term for his role in smuggling in the cash.