Nakasone Acknowledges Recruit Donations; Says He’s Innocent In Scandal
TOKYO (AP) _ Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone today acknowledged receiving political donations from the company at the center of an influence-peddling scandal but testified that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
In long-awaited testimony before Parliament, Nakasone said he received $235,000 in political donations from the Recruit Co. from 1982 to 1987.
It was his first public acknowlegement that he accepted political donations from the information and publishing conglomerate, but he said the contributions were reported according to law.
″I am totally innocent,″ Nakasone told the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives. ″I refused to testify earlier because I have never done anything wrong.″
Opposition leaders contend Nakasone, prime minister from 1983 to 1987, played a central role in the scandal that has seriously shaken public confidence in government. They demand his resignation from parliament.
Nakasone refused to step down, saying ″I will continue my job to make a contribution to my country.″
While the former prime minister’s voice was heard in a national televivion broadcast, cameras flashed only still pictures of a grim-faced Nakasone during more than two hours of testimony. By law, TV cameras are banned at parliament sessions during testimony of special witnesses.
Nakasone had acknowledged that three of his aides bought a total of 29,000 Recruit shares and that profits from their sale after the issue went public were used for political activites.
He testified that sale of the shares had reaping the aides about $450,000.
Recruit had sold unlisted shares in a subsidiary to scores of people prominent in government and business, including at least 17 politicians or their aides. The buyers made large profits when the shares went on public sale.
Eleven of the 17 were members of Nakasone’s Cabinet.
During questioning by Seiichi Inaba, a member of the opposition Japan Socialist Party, Nakasone denied personal involvement in the stock purchases. ″These were economic acts by the individuals who purchased them,″ he said.
For months, the opposition has demanded testimony in Parliament from Nakasone, who was prime minister at the time of dubious stock deals and large political contributions by Recruit.
The governing Liberal Democrats refused until last week, calling the demands ″improper″ because of Nakasone’s status as a former prime minister.
A long opposition boycott of debate on the budget changed that.
Liberal Democrats forced the budget through the House of Representatives last month, but widespread criticism resulted and a deal was made: The opposition would not boycott the budget in the upper house if Nakasone testified before the budget committee.
Prosecutors have so far arrested 14 bureaucrats and businessmen in the scandal on charges involving bribery and violations of securities laws. They have also filed charges against two members of Parliament.
On Monday, prosecutors charged lawmaker Takao Fujinami, a Nakasone lieutenant and former chief Cabinet secretary, with bribery in the scandal.
Tsuruo Yamaguchi, secretary-general of the Socialist Party, the largest opposition group, has accused Nakasone of doing Recruit a special favor that involved ordering Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Co. and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to buy multimillion-dollar U.S. supercomputers.
Two of the supercomputers made by Cray Research Inc. were resold to Recruit and helped establish it in leasing computer time and related telecommunications services.
Hisashi Shinto, former chairman of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, which was a government monopoly until 1985, was arrested and accused of taking bribes from Recruit in the form of the bargain stock shares.
The opposition also wants to know whether Nakasone recommended Hiromasa Ezoe, the former chairman of Recruit, for membership on several government advisory committees.
In a survey published today, support for the governing party slipped to an all-time low.
According to a survey of 2,280 eligible voters conducted last weekend by the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbum, support for the Liberal Democrats stands at just 26.5 percent, the lowest since its founding in 1955, while combined support for five opposition parties stands at 26.7 percent. The survey said 44.1 percent of those polled supported no party.