‘Shadow Shogun’ will fight suit

2010-10-07 15:12

Tokyo - Japanese ruling party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, facing a criminal indictment over a money scandal, on Thursday rejected opposition calls to quit and reiterated his resolve to stay on as a lawmaker.

The 68-year-old Ozawa, who had served as leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, also said he was willing to face questions from lawmakers on the legislative floor, if called to do so.

"Criminal investigations have made it clear that there was no wrongdoing that should result in an indictment," Ozawa told reporters.

"I have no plan (to resign). I will simply continue my political activities as long as people support me to do so," he said.

On Monday a citizens' judicial review panel said the former party secretary general should be indicted over a funding scandal, in a ruling that paves the way for legal action.

The independent panel's decision represented a major turnaround for the political veteran dubbed the "Shadow Shogun", who only weeks ago was in contention to become Japan's prime minister in a party leadership election.

Repeat investigations

Ozawa was narrowly beaten by Prime Minister Naoto Kan last month, with nearly half of the DPJ's Diet members backing Ozawa's attempt to wrest power.

Prosecutors have repeatedly investigated Ozawa in connection with his fund management body, which allegedly gave false financial reports in 2004 and 2005.

The case has resulted in arrests and indictments of his current and former aids.

When asked whether he would be willing to face questioning by a legislative ethics panel, Ozawa said: "I will always follow the decision of the parliament."

Prosecutors could not build a case against Ozawa and cleared the politician, known as a behind-the-scenes power broker and a shrewd election strategist.

Media urges him to quit

Ozawa's case was then referred to a citizens' judicial review panel, which decided that he should be brought to court for his allegedly shady dealings.

The panel's decision means that authorities must now appoint lawyers to prosecute Ozawa, who will be accused in a courtroom for the first time in his four-decade political career.

However, analysts say that he stands a good chance of not being convicted given prosecutors' earlier inability to find evidence against him.

Newspaper editorials had urged Ozawa to step down as a parliament member, amid fears the trial of one of Japan's most influential politicians would bring further instability to a DPJ looking to recover from a turbulent first year in power.