Only aides handled the accounts, Ozawa says

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Staff Writers

Former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa on Tuesday once again flatly denied that he conspired with his aides to falsify his political fund management body’s reports in 2004 and 2005 over a ¥400 million land deal in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

The point of his case is whether the DPJ power broker was told the details of the records in his fund management body Rikuzankai, and whether he gave the former aides the nod to make false entries.

At the 12th session of his Tokyo District Court trial, Ozawa said he left it up to his secretaries to keep the records of Rikuzankai’s revenues and expenditures, claiming he never checked the reports and instead focused on his political activities.

“If I had to verify or interfere with what I had (my secretaries) do, there’s no point in entrusting them with the work,” Ozawa said. “My interest centers on this country, and I spend my time concentrating on that.”

Ozawa had to this day brushed aside demands by opposition parties to provide sworn testimony in the Diet, but when he finally took the witness stand in court he was very vocal.

The political don said the ¥400 million he prepared for the land purchase to build dormitories for his secretaries consisted of his own assets, which included what he inherited from his parents and royalties from his books, as well as his pay as a Diet member for over 40 years.

“(My secretaries) told me that it would make things difficult financially for the political fund management bodies to use their money for the land purchase, so I prepared it. But I left its use to my secretaries in charge, so I am not aware” of how the purchase was dealt with, he said.

Ozawa also denied suspicions that he pocketed party subsidies that were left when Shinshinto (New Frontier Party) became defunct in 1997 and the Liberal Party folded in 2003. He had headed both parties.

Ozawa said the ¥10 billion left from Shinshinto was divided among the party’s factions based on the number of members, while the subsidy for the Liberal Party was handed over to its affiliated fund management body, Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi.

“I never used any of the money personally,” Ozawa said. “Political parties’ money is all public funds and not something that can be used on a personal basis.”

The power broker, who once served as secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party before leaving the then ruling party in 1993, also categorically denied that he or his former aides received bribes from builders.

Ozawa also said that during voluntary questioning in January 2010, prosecutors made “ridiculous arguments and questions, asking me if I received illegal money. And I answered that I did no such thing.”

Ozawa’s three ex-aides, including independent lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, have testified at Ozawa’s trial and said that even though they had not consulted with him, they caved in to prosecutors and signed interrogation records that they later said deviated from the truth.