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Japan's political kingpin cleared of funding conspiracy


16:47, November 12, 2012

TOKYO, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Japan's political kingmaker Ichiro Ozawa was cleared by the Tokyo High Court on Monday of misreporting political funds, following a lengthy courtroom battle during which Ozawa unwaveringly maintained his innocence.

The high court upheld the lower court's previous acquittal of Ozawa, who found the 70-year old political bigwig not guilty of co- conspiring with political aides to conceal vast sums of money.

While his aides were convicted, Ozawa, who left the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to form a new party in July, doggedly insisted he did not falsify any figures regarding financial documents connected to his political funds body.

Ozawa's departure from the DPJ sparked an exodus of his loyalists from the party, with the defections severely denting Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's ruling party's grip on power in the lower house.

Ozawa stood charged of falsifying funding reports of concealing a loan of 400 million yen (about 5 million U.S. dollars) related to the purchase of land in Tokyo in 2004 and listing 350 million yen for land purchased in 2004 a year later in 2005.

The irrepressible politician, known for his back room style of wheeler-dealer politics, along with his defense counsel had told court-appointed prosecutors in the Tokyo District Court that his aides were responsible for all the administrative duties and that he himself had not approved and had no knowledge of the falsification of reports made in connection to his political funds management body.

Presiding judge Shoji Ogawa of the Tokyo High Court on Monday handed down the acquittal, first made by the lower court in April, following a lack of evidence against Ozawa.

Ogawa said that the lower court's original ruling was "valid" and that the high court had no major discrepancies with the case and the lower courts findings.

He added that the district court had been thorough in its investigations and noted that while Ozawa may have been aware of the reports, as he had to authorize them, evidence of Ozawa himself violating Japan's political funds control law as a " conspirator" was insufficient.

Senior government officials' reaction to the ruling were sparse on Monday, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura telling a news conference briefly that "The decision was made by the court on a specific case."

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