Tokyo prosecutors seek 2-year prison term for PM's former secretary

16:23, March 29, 2010      

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Prosecutors on Monday sought a two year prison sentence for a former state-paid secretary of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The aide is charged with falsifying political funds reports at Hatoyama's fund management body.

Keiji Katsuba, 59, a former aide to the prime minister fully admitted the prosecution's charges during the first hearing and will face a ruling by the Tokyo District Court on April 22.

Katsuba was indicted without arrest in December along with another of the prime minister's former secretaries and whilst Hatoyama himself was not indicted due to insufficient evidence against him.

Katsuba is charged with falsely reporting that Hatoyama's funds management body collected some 360 million yen (3.88 million U.S. dollars) in individual donations and fundraising party ticket sales from 2004 to 2008.

Another former secretary has been fined 300,000 yen (3,237 U.S. dollars) in the case.

Katsuba also stands charged with not declaring 12 million yen ( 129,450 U.S. dollars) in donations from Hatoyama's mother and sister in political funds reports from 2005 to 2008, and falsely reporting 30 million yen (323,700 U.S. dollars) in party ticket sales from 2006 to 2008.

Recent funds scandals involving Japan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) bloc, most notably those involving Ichiro Ozawa, the party's Secretary-General, have dealt a major blow to the democrats ahead of this summer's House of Councillors election.

The upper house elections are a must win for the DPJ in order for the coalition party to consolidate its power in the upper house of the Diet and avoid a political deadlock. The vote is also being widely seen as a key test of public confidence in the new government that has seen its approval ratings steadily slide since sweeping to power in the August election.

According to a prominent Japanese newspaper on Monday the approval rating for Hatoyama's Cabinet plunged 7 percentage points from a previous survey in February, to 36 percent in the latest poll taken over the weekend.

60 percent of respondents said they would be taking into account the political fund donation scandals involving Hatoyama and secretary-general Ichiro Ozawa, when they cast their votes, the newspaper reported.

Source: Xinhua
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