The Tokyo District Court on Monday gave three former secretaries of former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa suspended prison terms for falsifying reports of his political funds management body Rikuzankai.

The case mainly revolves around entries on ¥400 million Rikuzankai borrowed from him in October 2004 to buy a plot of land in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

The ruling is a strong blow against Mr. Ozawa, whose trial will start Oct. 6 on a charge of conspiring with his secretaries to falsify the reports. The opposition will fiercely attack him. He should fully explain. But it must be noted that the conviction of his secretaries does not automatically mean that he is guilty, although Monday’s ruling can negatively affect his trial.

The ruling pointed out that Mr. Ozawa has not given clear explanations about where the ¥400 million came from. It said that “it can be presumed” that Mr. Ozawa’s office tried to hide the borrowing of the ¥400 million whose sources were unclear by making false entries. But neither could the prosecution present evidence to show the sources of the money.

The prosecution alleged that two of the secretaries received ¥100 million in cash from the president of Mizutani Construction Co. over a dam construction project in Iwate Prefecture, where Mr. Ozawa’s electoral district is located — ¥50 million in October 2004 and another ¥50 million in April 2005. The court accepted the prosecution’s allegation as a fact.

If the decision is correct, it is a serious case of a politician receiving money under the table. But oddly enough, the prosecution did not indict anyone in connection with the Mizutani money. Clearly the prosecution was not confident enough about the evidence it collected. One also wonders whether the court fully examined the evidence. For example, a Mizutani driver’s daily log has no entry that shows that he took the president to a hotel where he allegedly handed ¥50 million to one of the secretaries on the day mentioned by the prosecution.

It must be remembered that the court rejected 11 of the 38 investigators’ records of oral statements by the secretaries because of pressure and leading questions by prosecutors. The court also partially rejected many other such records.

The ruling used many phrases of presumption. It is hoped that an appellate court will strictly assess concrete evidence and give a convincing ruling, regardless of its conclusion.

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