The Tokyo No. 5 Prosecution Inquest Committee, a panel of 11 citizens, decided unanimously Tuesday that Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa should be indicted for his fund management body’s alleged false reporting of political funds from 2004 to 2007.

Just the day before, another Tokyo judicial review panel had supported the prosecution’s decision not to indict Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama over a similar case involving political funds reports from 2004 to 2008. The panel’s decision came despite some panel members questioning Mr. Hatoyama’s contention that he knew nothing about the more than ¥1.2 billion provided by his mother from 2002 to 2009 to fund his political activities.

Tuesday’s development is damaging to Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ and, to some extent, to Mr. Hatoyama. People’s suspicions about Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Hatoyama will deepen unless both men explain their cases in detail. Inaction on either man’s part could cost the DPJ dearly in the coming Upper House election.

In February, the prosecution indicted three aides of Mr. Ozawa for his fund management body’s failure to properly report income of ¥545 million, including ¥400 million it borrowed from Mr. Ozawa, and some ¥352 million used to buy Tokyo land. Mr. Ozawa was not indicted, due to lack of evidence.

Tuesday’s decision obliges the prosecution to reopen its investigation. If it again decides not to indict Mr. Ozawa or does not indict him within three months, the panel will again review the case. If eight or more members vote for indictment, Mr. Ozawa will be indicted by court-appointed lawyers.

The panel said Mr. Ozawa’s contention that he delegated all financial reporting work to aides is not credible, adding that circumstantial evidence leads it to strongly suspect conspiracy between Mr. Ozawa and his aides. It said that “in the view of ordinary citizens” he should be indicted so that all relevant facts will be brought to light.

Tuesday’s decision does not mean that Mr. Ozawa is guilty. The prosecution must reinvestigate, focusing strictly on concrete evidence. Should the case come before the panel again, the panel members should be cool-headed in their deliberations, as their decision could greatly impact Japan’s political process.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.