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The Tokyo High Court has given a suspended 10-month prison term to former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka for hiding a 100 million yen donation from the Japan Dental Association to the Liberal Democratic Party’s then top faction headed by the late Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The crux of the crime is that Mr. Muraoka ordered the faction’s treasurer, Mr. Toshiyuki Takigawa, not to list the 100 million yen in the faction’s 2002 political funds report, as required by law.

The two factors — that such a large amount of money was donated and that the receipt of the money was not reported in violation of the Political Funds Control Law — have rekindled people’s suspicion about politicians’ ties to money. Lawmakers must strive to make the flow of political funds transparent.

An executive of the dental association handed a 100 million yen check to Mr. Hashimoto during a dinner in July 2001 in the presence of former LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka and LDP Upper House caucus chief Mikio Aoki. The high court decided that, in a March 2002 meeting, Mr. Muraoka ordered Mr. Takigawa not to report the donation in the political funds report. Mr. Nonaka, Mr. Aoki and another LDP pol also attended the meeting.

The prosecutors suspended an indictment against Mr. Nonaka on the grounds that his role in hiding the donation was not active. They also decided not to indict Mr. Aoki on the grounds that he was not involved in hiding the donation. The logic behind these decisions is hard to understand. In fact, the high court ruling acknowledges that testimony by Mr. Nonaka and Mr. Aoki — that the disposition of the 100 million yen check was not broached at the meeting — is unreliable.

The Tokyo District Court had acquitted Mr. Muraoka, saying that Mr. Takigawa’s testimony that a decision not to report the 100 million yen donation was made at the March 2002 meeting was unreliable. But the high court found Mr. Muraoka guilty, saying that the testimony was concrete, consistent and thus reliable. The Diet can help unravel the truth by having those involved speak as witnesses.

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