Japan political strongman Ozawa cleared

2012-11-12 11:00
(AP, File)

(AP, File)

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Tokyo - Japan's onetime political kingmaker Ichiro Ozawa was cleared on Monday of misreporting political funds, ending a drawn-out legal battle for one of the country's more colourful politicians.

The appeal court upheld an earlier ruling that Ozawa had done nothing wrong when he failed initially to report $5m that he had loaned to the funding body supporting his political machine.

Ozawa was once one of Japan's most powerful politicians, earning the moniker "Shadow Shogun" for behind-the-scenes manoeuvring that shaped large parts of the parliamentary landscape.

A former player in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, he is credited with engineering the 2009 general election victory of the now-governing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which he once led.

But his star has largely faded in recent times and his departure from the DPJ to set up his own party earlier this year did not prove the terminal blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that commentators speculated he was hoping for.

On Monday, presiding judge Shoji Ogawa of the Tokyo High Court upheld an April acquittal for the 70-year-old on charges he had conspired not to report the $5m loan in 2004.

Technical mistakes

The funding body used the cash for a $4.4m land deal and reported having received the money in documents submitted for the accounts in a different year.

Japanese law requires transactions involving political funding to be strictly recorded.

Ozawa and his aides argued that they had made technical mistakes and the misreporting was not criminal.

Japan's mainstream media has long been critical of Ozawa's strong political influence, which critics charge stems from his vast personal wealth and allegedly lucrative connections.

Allegations of graft have swarmed around him for years, but he has never been convicted of any offence.

Noda is under pressure to call a general election soon, with his majority in the lower house left fragile by defections and departures, including those by Ozawa and his acolytes.

Read more on:    yoshihiko noda  |  japan
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