National / Crime & Legal

Top court upholds guilty verdict for former secretary of Ozawa

Kyodo

The Supreme Court has upheld lower court rulings that found a former secretary to veteran lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa guilty of failing to report political funds, the top court said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the court’s No. 3 Petty Bench led by Justice Masaharu Ohashi turned down an appeal from Tomohiro Ishikawa, a 41-year-old former member of the House of Representatives who was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, for falsifying the political fund reports of Ozawa’s fund management body.

Ozawa now heads People’s Life Party, a small opposition force.

Ishikawa can appeal again, but the decision by a panel of five justices is expected to stand and become binding because an objection can only be filed over technicalities, such as an error in wording. The top court rarely accepts such objections.

Ishikawa’s two co-defendants — Takanori Okubo, 53, a former accountant of Ozawa’s fund management body, and Mitsutomo Ikeda, 37, another former secretary — accepted lower court verdicts that assigned three years to Okubo, suspended for five years, and one year to Ikeda, suspended for three years. All three must thus keep their noses clean or go to jail.

Ozawa, 72, who was the Democratic Party of Japan’s secretary-general while then-leader Yukio Hatoyama was prime minister between September 2009 and June 2010, was finally acquitted over the false reporting case in November 2012. But this was only after years of having his name dragged through the courts under a rare special indictment process described by some legal critics as double jeopardy.

After appealing a high court guilty ruling to the Supreme Court, Ishikawa, who left the DPJ in 2010, resigned from the Lower House in May last year to concentrate on his court case.

In 2011, the Tokyo District Court found that the defendants had failed to designate ¥400 million in the Rikuzankai fund management body’s 2004 annual report to the government as a loan from Ozawa, and failed to enter the same amount in its 2007 report as a repayment.

The district court also found that the defendants accepted a total of ¥100 million from a contractor based in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture.

The defendants appealed, but the Tokyo High Court rejected the appeals in 2013. Only Ishikawa appealed the high court ruling to the Supreme Court.

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