Former Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami pleaded not guilty Monday to paying his campaign staff after the Tokyo gubernatorial election in 2014.

"I was never involved in distributing the money, nor did I conspire to do so," Tamogami, 67, wearing a white shirt and black suit, said in the first session of his trial at the Tokyo District Court. "I plead not guilty."

Prosecutors said Tamogami, who became a conservative commentator after being fired as leader of the Air Self-Defense Force, was indicted for approving the use of campaign funds to pay his campaign staff for the Tokyo gubernatorial election in February 2014.