I know I have other things to do, but I just had to bring this to your attention. Replies to comments on this and other threads to come later.The Tokyo Public Prosecutors’ Office arrested Ichiro Ozawa’s top aide (第一公設秘書) today (Festival of Peach Blossoms) on a charge of violating the Political Finance Regulation Act. According to the mainstream media Nishimatsu Kensetsu, a mid-tier construction firm, has been accused (among other things) of funneling 21 million yen in corporate funds to Ozawa’s political finance entity. Sankei—unsurprisingly?—gives 200 million yen as the likely amount of money that flowed from Nishimatsu Kensetsu to Ozawa. If past experience is anything to go by, this is a charge that will stick. If Ozawa’s old-school background as the rightful heir to construction king Kakuei Tanaka as well as persistent charges of money issues including most recently one from a DPJ colleague is not enough, remember that the authorities will never make such a public arrest unless they are confident that they will have the closest thing to an air-tight case. Mike Nifong the Japanese Prosecutors’ Agency is not.
Nishimatsu had been under investigation for political contribution irregularities for some time, but this arrest appears to have come as a surprise to the media as well as the general public. No doubt there will be charges of political motivation, and, who knows, it could be true (or not) for all I know. But it will be highly difficult for Ozawa and his supporters to weather this one.
So the DPJ has two alternatives: a) have Ozawa claim his innocence but make it an Ozawa-, not DPJ-issue, by stepping down as party leader; or b) let Ozawa stay on, damaging, perhaps fatally, the DPJ’s chances for taking over through the next Lower House election. The first option, of course, works better for the DPJ. The second will change the whole complexion on the ongoing political battle in favor of the LDP-New Kōmeitō coalition. Let’s see what Ozawa does.
In the meantime, a brief rundown of the legal issue at stake:
Under the Political Finance Regulation Act (政治資金規正法), individual politicians may receive political funds from individuals only. They may not receive political funds from legal entities. According to the allegations, Nishimatsu circumvented this proscription by disguising the political money (to Ozawa among others) as individual, not corporate, contributions from former Nishimatsu executives. The money went to Ozawa’s political finance management entity (資金管理団体), but that’s a technicality.