The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 13, 2012)
Ozawa's explanation unlikely to satisfy anyone
More than two years have passed since allegations against Ichiro Ozawa's political funds management organization surfaced over falsification of the political funds reports.
The political heavyweight has never offered an explanation about the accusations in the Diet. So what did he say in the court?
Ozawa, a former Democratic Party of Japan president indicted on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law over the purchase of land by Rikuzan-kai, his political funds management organization, was questioned for two days recently in the Tokyo District Court. The testimony drew wide attention as it was believed to be the climax of Ozawa's trial.
In court, Ozawa said he "entirely entrusted [the political funds reports] to my secretaries" because he had "no time to pay attention directly" to them.
The main focus of the trial is whether the court will determine there was a conspiracy between Ozawa and his three former secretaries, including House of Representatives member Tomohiro Ishikawa, all of whom have been found guilty by the district court for falsifying the reports.
Ozawa's remarks constitute a denial of his involvement in falsely reporting political funds.
Didn't kingpin take a peek?
However, we question Ozawa's contention that he "had never taken a look" at the political funds reports even after his trial started, in addition to leaving compilation of the reports solely to his secretaries.
To ensure fair political activities under public scrutiny, a system was established under the Political Funds Control Law to ensure disclosure of political organizations' earnings and spending by political funds.
Political funds reports are an important source of information for people to decide whether political activities are being conducted fairly.
If Ozawa's statement is true, he should be criticized for belittling the spirit of the Political Funds Control Law.
In fact, Ozawa has continually insisted all transactions made by his political funds organization are transparent. 小沢氏は常々、「政治資金はすべてオープンにしている」と強調してきた。
Many people are probably wondering how Ozawa can make such a claim without looking at the political funds reports himself.
Moreover, politicians have supervisory responsibility over their secretaries. What does Ozawa think about that?
Land purchase still obscure
Rikuzan-kai paid 400 million yen to purchase the land, and Ozawa himself prepared the money. In court, Ozawa said the money came from "cash and profits on sales of real estate inherited from my parents, royalties on books and the salary I earned as a lawmaker."
However, Ozawa has changed his explanation about the money during questioning by prosecutors.
The district court ruling on Ishikawa and the other two secretaries pointed out that Ozawa had failed to offer a clear explanation on the matter.
To refute this criticism, Ozawa said in court he "did not know the exact details [of the money] at that time." However, this explanation fails to clear up the confusion.
The two days of questioning effectively ended the examination of Ozawa in court. It is now up to the district court to decide whether Ozawa is criminally responsible for the falsification of the political funds reports.
Ozawa repeatedly has said he would reveal the truth in court. However, it is doubtful whether the public was convinced by his explanation when he thrust all the blame on his secretaries.
Unless Ozawa sincerely offers to provide every detail of his political funds, it will be difficult for him to win public understanding.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2012)