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.

Loading...

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.

  • U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions
    U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Indonesia on Saturday not to execute 10 prisoners, including two Australians, for drug-related crimes. Indonesia has so far informed seven of the 10 death row inmates, including the Australians and one Nigerian, that they will be executed in a matter of days, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Nationals from Brazil, Ghana and the Philippines are also on Indonesia's death row. A temporary reprieve was granted to a French citizen who will not …

  • Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions
    Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions

    Indonesia on Sunday signalled it was determined to push ahead with the execution of eight foreign drug convicts, despite a growing wave of global condemnation led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian prisoner. The group have been moved to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, where …

  • AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys
    AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is adopting a wait and see approach amid reports that China will soon deploy seaplanes to further strengthen its maritime claims in the disputed Spratlys. Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, spokesman for the military and commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, said they have yet to ascertain the real purpose behind China’s continuing aggressive moves in the region. “We will wait and see before coming up with an official stand,” Kakilala said when …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

  • Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions
    Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions

    Short of condemning China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a senior US military official said Washington does not support any act of coercion and bullying. “We don’t stand for coercion, bullying and aggressiveness,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant US military director for  Phl-US Joint Balikatan Exercises 2015. At the sidelines of this year’s joint military exercises’ static aircraft display held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Mahoney told a media briefing that …

  • ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’
    ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’

    The proposed grant to the chief minister of the envisioned Bangsamoro region of operational control over police forces in the area is consistent with the Constitution, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday. It is clear in the proposed BBL that the Bangsamoro police will be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP), while the Bangsamoro Regional Police Board (BRPB) will be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will carry out Napolcom’s mandate in the region,” he …

  • Noy off to KL for Asean meet
    Noy off to KL for Asean meet

    President Aquino will arrive here this afternoon with Manila hopeful of support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as economic prosperity and inclusive growth among the people in the region. Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said that with respect to the dramatic developments in the South China Sea, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had called for the early …

  • Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food
    Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food

    After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors, the future of food is finally here in the country’s capital. Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors on Friday to an international delegation who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world. Madrid Fusión Manila is a historic gastronomic event marked by talks and exhibitions that showcases Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options