Thu, Jun 25, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japan official denies accepting cash

AFP , TOKYO

Japan’s finance minister yesterday denied claims he had accepted illegal political donations in yet another potential headache for embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso ahead of this year’s elections.

The Mainichi Daily, citing unnamed sources, reported that Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano had received donations from a commodity futures trading company that were illegally hidden as contributions given by the firm’s individual staff members.

Yosano told reporters: “Formally and practically, there is no problem under the political funds control law.”

“Since the donation was received appropriately, I have no plan to refund it,” said Yosano, who is also fiscal policy minister and financial service agency chief, effectively supervising the nation’s entire financial system.

The Mainichi said that commodity futures trading broker Orient Trading allegedly gave ¥55.3 million (US$580,000) between 1995 and 2005 to Yosano’s fund-raising organization through an illegal scheme.

In 1998 and 1999, Yosano was trade and industry minister and in charge of supervising the nation’s commodity futures trading.

The firm, since renamed H.S. Futures, and its affiliates allegedly ordered 250 employees to send money to Yosano’s fund-raising group, apparently seeking to obscure the source of the money, the Mainichi said.

Japan’s political funding law — designed to root out cozy and corrupt ties between politicians and businessmen — prohibits companies from offering funds to politicians under the name of a third party.

Last month Ichiro Ozawa, the former head of main opposition party the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), resigned after his secretary was arrested over his role in a similar donation scheme.

Aso must call elections by September, but is struggling in the polls, with his public support ratings below 20 percent according to several recent surveys. In the election, which most pundits expect in August or early September, the DPJ hopes to end more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by Aso’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

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