National / Politics

Tokyo Gov. Inose allegedly tried to milk ¥100 million from scandal-hit hospital group

Kyodo

Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose sought a ¥100 million donation before last year’s gubernatorial election from a hospital organization currently at the center of a major fraud scandal, a source close to the group said Saturday, challenging the governor’s claim that he never asked for that amount.

At a news conference Friday, Inose admitted he borrowed ¥50 million from Tokushukai hospital and medical facilities chain.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, he denied asking Tokushukai for ¥100 million, saying, “I did not say anything about the amount of money.”

But the source said there is a written record of a phone conversation between House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda and his father, Torao Tokuda, the former head of Tokushukai, in which the son reports that Inose had asked for ¥100 million for his campaign war chest ahead of last December’s gubernatorial poll.

The ¥50 million Inose has owned up to borrowing was not included in the report on his election campaign. The Public Offices Election Law sets a penalty of up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of ¥500,000 for anyone convicted of filing false reports with electoral management committees.

Inose told Friday’s news conference that the money was a personal “loan” and not a contribution to his campaign. He also claimed he returned the cash in September through one of his secretaries.

According to the source, Tokuda, a 42-year-old member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on Nov. 19 last year phoned his father, who was receiving treatment at one of Tokushukai’s hospitals in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. During their conversation, Tokuda quoted Inose as saying: “I want ¥100 million. I will return (the money) if there is some left.”

The older Tokuda, 75, then agreed to give Inose the ¥50 million.

The record of their conversation also showed that Tokuda sought his father’s advice as to whether the money should be handed over to Inose at a building for Diet members.

On Friday, Inose said that while making the rounds during his election campaign, he met with Torao Tokuda in mid-November and introduced himself as the likely successor to then-Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. The elder Tokuda then offered to financially support Inose’s campaign.

“I felt it would be rude to refuse when (Tokuda) offered” the ¥50 million, Inose said.

Inose said he subsequently met with the son to get the cash and that, to the best of his recollection, the venue chosen was most likely the building for Diet members. After receiving the money, Inose said he immediately stuffed it into his wife’s safety deposit box, where it remained untouched.

The governor said he returned the funds after prosecutors launched investigations into the Tokushukai group in September. On Sept. 17, prosecutors raided the Tokyo head office of Tokushukai on suspicion its employees were illegally involved in the younger Tokuda’s campaign for the December 2012 general election.

Inose claims the money was returned to the lawmaker’s mother. She has said she is unaware of a document acknowledging the loan, but Inose claims it exists.

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