Japan's 'Shadow Shogun' not guilty of money scandal

One of the most powerful men in Japanese politics was found not guilty Thursday of a major funding scandal, paving the way for a possible showdown with the ruling party leadership.

Ichiro Ozawa, 69, once dubbed the "Shadow Shogun", was cleared by the Tokyo District Court of allegations he conspired with aides to hide 400 million yen ($4.9 million) he lent to his political funding body in 2004 for a land deal.

His aides had said the mistake was purely technical and their boss -- a former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader who engineered the party's 2009 election victory -- had not been aware of it.

Prosecutors, who came unstuck over the use of illegal evidence, said it was "unthinkable" Ozawa had not been in the loop.

Major TV networks cleared their schedules to report the verdict, with a huge media presence at the court for a case that has gripped Japan's political classes for years.

A spokesman for the court said 1,843 people queued up for the 46 seats available to the public.

According to NHK, presiding Judge Fumio Daizen told the court: "It has been decided that he is innocent because there is no evidence proving his conspiracy."

In a brief statement welcoming the verdict, Ozawa said: "I pay my respects to the court for showing its common sense and fairness, and I am grateful for people who have supported me."

Ozawa is the head of the largest grouping in the DPJ, and often seen as the power behind the premiership. In the highly factionalised world of Japanese politics, very little gets done without his say-so, tacit or otherwise.

While a conviction and the ensuing incarceration would almost certainly have sunk him, Thursday's verdict clears the way for Ozawa to confront Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda over controversial plans to double sales tax by 2015.

Years of unsuccessful pump-priming aimed at kickstarting Japan's moribund economy have left it with debts equivalent to twice its GDP.

Mainstream media, academics and international organisations say the hike is a sensible -- albeit partial -- solution to the fiscal shortfall.

But Ozawa, whose ability to take the public pulse is begrudgingly admired, has set his faction -- which makes up around a third of the DPJ -- firmly against the move.

Ozawa was likely to "come back with vengeance" to try to push Noda out of power, said Gerald Curtis, Columbia University professor of Japanese politics.

"This has nothing to do with the national interest. This is all about political manoeuvering. National interest falls to the second, third, fourth place in Japanese politics these days," he said.

"Nothing is getting done in the parliament."

Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Sophia University, said Ozawa's followers are not numerous enough to make him the next party leader, but "he has tremendous annoying power" to make Noda's life difficult.

He could distract from debates on the tax hike and the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade deal, Nakano said.

Kenji Yamaoka, a DPJ lawmaker close to Ozawa, ruled out any immediate head-on clash with the party leadership.

"We are not seeking confrontation blindly. We are not thinking about a power struggle in the party," Yamaoka told the private TBS network.

But he noted the Ozawa group was aware of the "promises we made to the people and how we will realise them".

The DPJ swept to power in 2009 with its then leader Yukio Hatoyama promising to slash deficits by cutting spending, instead of raising taxes.

Financial markets ignored Thursday's ruling, despite fears that stocks could tumble and the yen might drop with any perceived increase in uncertainty over Japan's fiscal future.

Makoto Noji, senior currency strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said the acquittal did not lessen the need for reform, no matter what Ozawa's next move may be.

"People in the market don't care much (for) the internal political battle," Dow Jones Newswires quoted him as saying.

"Ozawa's assertions that the ruling party should stick to its campaign promise... is no longer realistic," he said.

In late afternoon, the yen stood at 81.15 to the dollar, up from 81.35 in New York.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed flat at 9,561.83.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Honda Launches the New Generation BeAT Fi
    Honda Launches the New Generation BeAT Fi

    Honda Philippines Inc. (HPI) recently unveiled its latest offering, the New Generation BeAT-FI eSP Series at the Music Hall of the SM Mall of Asia. Daiki Mihara, President of Honda Philippines, Inc., is confident of the potentials of the New Generation BeAT-FI eSP Series in the local scooter market. “The New Generation BeAT-FI eSP Series is a reflection of Honda Philippines’ continued commitment to provide powerful, safe, fun, and worthwhile driving experience to the growing market of …

  • US to China: Stop reclamation now
    US to China: Stop reclamation now

    The United States yesterday called for an “immediate and lasting halt” to reclamation works in disputed waters in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, saying Beijing’s behavior in the area was “out of step” with international norms. To that end, there should be an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a high-level security conference in Singapore. …

  • Pinoys urged to observe Flag Day
    Pinoys urged to observe Flag Day

    Filipinos are urged to commemorate the significance of the national flag as the country commemorates Flag Day from May 28 to June 12, the nation’s Independence Day. The Philippine flag was first unfurled after the Philippine Revolutionary Army defeated Spanish forces in the Battle at Alapan in Imus, Cavite on May 28, 1898, according to the Official Gazette. “The national flag was yet to be formally announced on the day of that battle. …

  • House urged to probe ‘wash sale’ of treasury notes
    House urged to probe ‘wash sale’ of treasury notes

    Congress should look into what could be the anomalous wash sale of P14.3 billion worth of treasury notes last year by officials of the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said yesterday. In a statement, Zarate said the questionable wash sale, covering 28 transactions, might be a fund-raising effort of the Aquino administration for the 2016 elections. The DBP Employees Union (DBPEU) on Friday filed a graft complaint with the Office of the …

  • Qatar court to rule on case of Pinoys charged with espionage
    Qatar court to rule on case of Pinoys charged with espionage

    Qatar’s Court of Appeals is set to deliver a verdict today on the three Filipinos charged with espionage and economic sabotage. One of the three Filipinos who was employed by state-owned Qatar Petroleum was sentenced to death, while the two others who were working at a military base were meted life sentence. The prosecution said the three Filipinos spied by transferring to Philippine officials military and economic information related to the types of aircraft and tanks to be used by the armed …

  • 16 hurt in Jolo police camp blast
    16 hurt in Jolo police camp blast

    Security forces launched a massive hunt for the bombers that set off Friday night two explosives near a mosque inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) Camp Asturias in Jolo, Sulu, injuring 11 police officers and five civilians, including three children. The attack appears to have been well-planned as attackers first lobbed a grenade and waited for responding policemen to arrive before setting off a bigger improvised explosive device (IED). Four of the victims are still in grade school, …

  • POEA seeks close monitoring of Saudi’s situation
    POEA seeks close monitoring of Saudi’s situation

    The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has instructed all recruitment agencies sending Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia to closely monitor the situation in the country because of the escalating hostilities in adjacent Yemen. The POEA issued an advisory instructing recruiters to keep a close watch on the Saudi provinces of Najran, Jizan and Asir, which are situated on the Saudi-Yemen border. The POEA also directed the recruitment agencies to submit a list of all the workers …

  • Army to provide treatment for corporal behind bus hostage incident
    Army to provide treatment for corporal behind bus hostage incident

    The Philippine Army promised mental health treatment for an Army corporal who took at least 20 bus passengers hostage in Camarines Sur on Friday, even as police filed a complaint for slight illegal detention before the Prosecutor’s Office. “If proven that he is mentally unstable, we will not abandon him. Rene Prajele showed signs of being mentally disturbed while in detention at the Del Gallego police station in Camarines Sur, adding that the officers who interviewed him could not get a clear …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options