Reports: Top Politician to Admit Receiving Illegal Donations
TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese media reported Thursday that the country’s most powerful political broker would admit to having received dubious donations from a trucking company linked to the underworld.
Shin Kanemaru, 78, has denied repeated requests by prosecutors to submit to questioning after he announced last month that his office received $4 million from Hiroyasu Watanabe, a former president of Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin.
Watanabe went on trial Tuesday in Japan’s biggest-ever breach-of-trust case. He is accused of donating millions of dollars in cash to about a dozen powerful politicians, including three former prime ministers.
Watanabe has denied making any such donations.
The reports in major newspapers said lawyers for Kanemaru were drafting a written statement acknowledging the contributions and would submit it to prosecutors as soon as Friday. The reports could not be confirmed late Thursday.
Under such an agreement, Kanemaru, a main power behind Japan’s last four prime ministers, would not have to go to trial or appear for questioning.
The prosecutors then would be expected to submit a summary indictment against Kanemaru, saying he violated laws that require politicians to disclose all donations exceeding about $8,000.
Violators of the law can face up to $1,666 in fines.
There has been some resentment over Kanemaru’s status allowing him so far to spurn public prosecutors, and over the possibility that he may be able to substitute a written statement for questioning.
″Violation of the Political Funds Control Law may be a minor crime, but there are cases of ordinary citizens being forced to appear for interrogation if they refuse to show up to answer questions about a traffic violation,″ the newspaper Yomiuri quoted Hiroshi Itakura, a professor of criminal law at Nippon University, as saying.
Itakura said Kanemaru’s actions have set a bad example and that other politicians also may refuse to appear before prosecutors.
Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa has not been linked to Watanabe, but Kanemaru’s support is crucial to Miyazawa’s power base.
Kanemaru heads the most powerful faction of lawmakers belonging to the governing Liberal Demoratic Party. His support brings with it the support of the faction, an important voting bloc.
Opposition parties have demanded Kanemaru give up his seat in the lower house.