Prosecutors plan to question Ichiro Ozawa on a voluntary basis for a fourth time over misreported funds, but not until after the Sept. 14 election for president of the Democratic Party of Japan, sources said Monday.
Ozawa, formerly secretary general of the DPJ, has said he is busy preparing for the election and hoped for the questioning to take place afterward.
In addition, he told prosecutors there could potentially be too much political impact on the DPJ race if the questioning takes place immediately beforehand, the sources said.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s DPJ presidency expires in September, and the election will decide whether he will remain at the party helm and thus stay prime minister. Speculation has been rife that Ozawa and his followers may field a rival candidate.
Ozawa notified prosecutors late last month through his lawyer that he will submit to the questioning.
It will be the fourth round over the alleged false financial reporting involving Ozawa’s fund management body, Rikuzankai. The Tokyo No. 1 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution decided last month it was inappropriate for prosecutors not to charge Ozawa over part of the case involving Rikuzankai’s 2007 report.
After the next round of questioning, the prosecutors are again expected not to pursue charges.
Ozawa was questioned twice on a voluntary basis before prosecutors decided in February not to charge him. The then DPJ secretary general was questioned for the third time after another judicial panel decided in April that he merited indictment over other aspects involving Rikuzankai’s reports in 2004 and 2005.
Ozawa has denied any involvement in the falsified reports on all of these occasions.
Prosecutors also called for further questioning of three former aides to Ozawa — Tomohiro Ishikawa, Mitsutomo Ikeda and Takanori Okubo — who have been charged with violating the Political Funds Control Law over the alleged false financial reporting, but the three rejected the request, according to the sources.
The prosecutors’ quick decision not to pursue charges against Ozawa due to insufficient evidence came in two parts, one concerning the 2004 and 2005 reports and the other over the 2007 report. The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution is in charge of the former, while the No. 1 panel handles the latter.
Ozawa can be spared indictment over the 2007 report if prosecutors, acting on the No. 1 panel’s July 8 decision, decide not to charge him.
But he may still face a mandatory indictment if the No. 5 panel, which concluded in April that a conspiracy between Ozawa and the three aides was “strongly suspected” and he therefore merited indictment, draws the same conclusion for the second time after its ongoing review.
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