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Japan's political kingpin Ozawa indicted over funds scandal

01-31-2011 17:28 BJT

TOKYO, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Japan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) power broker and party policy strategist was indicted Monday over an alleged political funds law violation involving his fund management organization.

The highly-anticipated indictment of Ozawa, who was once the head of the DPJ, was filed by court-appointed lawyers after an independent judicial panel comprising 11 citizens announced last October for the second and final time that Ozawa will be charged as his involvement in the misreporting of his political funds is " strongly suspected."

Regular prosecutors had dropped the case citing a lack of evidence and sources close to the matter said that in light of this Ozawa could beat the case, which is not likely to start for several months and could take more than a year until a clear verdict is given.

However, should Ozawa, a veteran politician largely credited with the DPJ's rise to power last year, yet also known for his wheeler-dealer style of back room politics, be found guilty, he'll be facing up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to one million yen (12,200 U.S. dollars).

Ozawa has persistently denied any wrongdoing but faces charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law for the alleged false reporting by his political funds management body, called Rikuzankai, in 2004 and 2005, of around 340 million yen (4.13 million U.S. dollars) it spent to purchase land in Tokyo and failure to book 400 million yen (4.86 million U.S. dollars) it received in loans from Ozawa.

Three former secretaries of Ozawa have been indicted in connection with the scandal and Ozawa himself has been questioned four times by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on a voluntary basis, but not indicted due to lack of evidence.

The 68-year old Ozawa has refused to submit to any more voluntary questioning, according to his defense counsel who maintained he is not obliged to do so.

The case concerning Ozawa has already caused public support for Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet to fall and created an ever-widening rift within the ruling DPJ of which Ozawa holds sway over a sizable number of junior Lower House lawmakers, who may side with Ozawa should he decide or be forced to leave the DPJ.

In addition, Ozawa's prosecution could provide opposition parties with further leverage in an already divided parliament to block key bills trying to be passed by Kan, including the 2011 budget aimed at bolstering Japan's anemic economy and other related bills.

Ozawa told local media recently that whatever happened he intended not to give up his post in the DPJ, despite calls from Kan and opposition leaders suggesting he step down if he was indicted.

Ozawa launched a leadership battle against Kan in the DPJ's internal election in September but narrowly lost to the prime minister who garnered just six more votes in parliament.

Unpopular with local media and the public, due to his seemingly shady image and continued dodging of pointed questions by the press, Ozawa's loyalists laud his legacy to date, which includes reforming the election system that led to a two-party process that effectively ended half a century of rule by a single conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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