Onus on aides as Ozawa ‘can’t recall’ fund details

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Staff Writers

Ichiro Ozawa maintained Wednesday he had nothing to do with the alleged falsification of political funding reports, telling the Tokyo District Court he left all financial matters to his secretaries and doesn’t remember what one of his secretaries says he told the political don about how the money in question was being handled.

The former Democratic Party of Japan president is accused of conspiring with his aides to falsify his funding reports in 2004 and 2005 over a ¥400 million land deal in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. He is pleading not guilty and in testimony that started Tuesday he said he never saw the records or issued any orders to his aides to make false entries.

One former aide, Tomohiro Ishikawa, currently an independent lawmaker, testified earlier that he had explained to Ozawa that Rikuzankai, Ozawa’s political fund management body, was going to borrow money from a bank by using ¥400 million in Ozawa’s money as collateral to the property in Setagawa Ward. If the testimony is true, it would indicate Ozawa was involved in controlling Rikuzankai’s funds.

Although admitting that the signatures on the papers that included a promissory note and loan request from a bank were his own, Ozawa testified that he has no recollection of such a conversation with Ishikawa.

“I don’t remember details. But because I was the one who prepared the ¥400 million, I simply thought that Ishikawa was handling the necessary procedures, and I just needed to put down my signature” when the papers were presented, Ozawa said.

The court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors in the case have claimed Rikuzankai didn’t report the money from Ozawa because the funds were accumulated through his shady political activities of the past. To keep Ozawa’s money from being made public, Rikuzankai reported the expense to buy the land as being paid in 2005, not in 2004 when the transaction really took place, the lawyers claimed.

Meanwhile Ozawa said the ¥400 million came from his legitimate private funds, such as those from assets left by his father and from book royalties.

Taking the witness stand for the second day, Ozawa told the court he did not remember details about the land purchase.

Wednesday was the last day of Ozawa’s questioning. The court will decide in February whether it will admit some of the interrogation records as part of the evidence to decide Ozawa’s fate. A ruling is scheduled for April.

The court-appointed lawyers who grilled Ozawa asked him if it was unnatural that Ishikawa split the ¥400 million into multiple bank accounts, alleging he did so to avoid arousing suspicion over the large sum. But Ozawa brushed aside the comment, saying it was a matter of course for an aide to take such action.

“I think it is natural for a secretary to make sure that the lawmaker can avert negativity and unfounded, harsh slander,” Ozawa said.