AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Marked man

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, January 30, 2010


IS THE JAPANESE MASS MEDIA being manipulated by Tokyo prosecutors to turn public opinion against DPJ Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro in the latest installment of his political fund scandals?

That’s what some members of the media suspect, and a large Amen Corner of Ozawa supporters is backing them up in the Japanese blogosphere.

The 5 February issue of the weekly Shukan Asahi that hit the newsstands this week threw some more red meat into the cage. The magazine claims someone in the prosecutors’ office is feeding them leaks to make things look bad for Mr. Ozawa, and they slam the prosecutors for their conduct of the investigation. Here’s an excerpt.

*****
“Someone sent the editors this information immediately before prosecutors interviewed Ozawa. It’s not clear whom the source is, but it is a leak from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s special investigative team.”

‘Whatever happens, they’ll get Ozawa. Otsuru (Motonari, the head of the special investigative unit) is a hard-liner, and he said, ‘We’ve got the proof. Now it’s just a question of how we’ll do it.’ The goal is to get him for accepting bribes for influence peddling, but if that doesn’t work, it’ll be as an accomplice in violating the political funds law. They can even get him for tax evasion. In the end, there’s also the possibility of striking a deal in exchange for him resigning his Diet seat.’

“In fact, the same person brought us information last week.”

‘The person leading the investigation now is not Sakuma Tatsuya, the division head, but Mr. Otsuru. He’s deadly serious, so he lit a fire under his less aggressive superiors, which led to the arrest of Ishikawa (Tomohiro, a lower house MP and former Ozawa aide). That’s because Ishikawa lied his head off during voluntary questioning. The Shukan Asahi is going to badmouth the prosecutors anyway, but you’ll wind up embarrassing yourselves if you don’t quickly change your tune. Sources at the construction companies are blabbing. Ishikawa is going to go down. Ozawa’s done for too. If they indict and convict him, he won’t be able to serve in the Diet.’

“According to this source, six top-notch prosecutors have been brought in from Osaka, Kyoto, and other places in the Kansai region, so it’s possible there’ll be more support to build a case against Ozawa. Both the Justice Ministry and the lead prosecutor are worried about getting ahead of themselves, however.”

‘They’re going up against the Democratic Party, so Mr. Otsuru is well aware that the Justice Minister may exercise her right to halt the investigation. They have to use the mass media to further fan the flames and prevent that from happening. They might have to seek permission from the Diet to arrest him.'”

*****
The reference to the magazine criticizing the prosecutors is clarified by the title of the article: The Out Of Control Prosecutors. The author of the article is Uozumi Akira, who writes: “The aim is to have Mr. Ozawa resign from the Diet. This is a crisis for parliamentary democracy.” He quotes former prosecutor Goharu Nobuo as saying: “The prosecutors have no clear direction. They’re just attacking Mr. Ozawa.”

If that’s the objective, they’ve gotten the public on their side. Here are the numbers from a recent Nikkei/TV Tokyo poll

61%: Think Ozawa should resign from the Diet
30%: Think Ozawa should not resign from the Diet
9%: Don’t know

*****
Poll numbers notwithstanding, some in the media and the Japanese blogosphere think the prosecutors are abusing their power. Mr. Uozumi elaborated the reasons they’re going after Ozawa in a radio interview:

“They’re upset because Mr. Ozawa has political control of Japan. Kasumigaseki (the bureaucracy) wants to control politics. But they can’t put up with him because he’s reversing that situation. The special prosecutors are at the top of Kasumigaseki, and the structure is “All-Kasumigaseki vs. Ozawa”. It’s a struggle for control between politicians and the bureaucracy.”

Another reason cited for the prosecution’s full-court press is that the ambitious Mr. Otsuru is trying to recover from a previous setback. He was the lead prosecutor in a collusion case involving construction companies and politicians in Fukushima. Though local prosecutors were not anxious to pursue the matter, he is said to have brushed aside opposition because he wanted to further his career.

They eventually arrested and tried Gov. Sato Eisaku, who was found guilty, sentenced to three years in jail, and given a five-year stay of execution. Last September, the appeals court reduced that to a two-year sentence with a four-year stay of execution, though the court found that the governor received no money in bribes. Mr. Sato claims the prosecutors created the case out of whole cloth by the prosecutors.

Some hold that Mr. Otsuru—who also led the prosecution team that put young Internet entrepreneur and media sensation Horie Takafumi in prison—is trying to nail Mr. Ozawa to restore his reputation.

*****
Other, more outré conspiracy theories abound. Some claim that Mr. Ozawa is being targeted by Wall Street capitalists and the CIA working with certain LDP factions, the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy, and the big Japanese advertising agencies (i.e., television sponsors).

Here’s the most entertaining theory of all: Arrayed on one side is the Rothschild Freemasons of Europe (of which Mr. Ozawa is supposedly a member), the Chinese government, and the Ozawa-led DPJ, who are squared off against the Tokyo prosecutors, a “certain large religious group” (read: Soka Gakkai, whose political arm is New Komeito, whom Mr. Ozawa is trying to crush), the American embassy in Japan working with the CIA, and the Rockefeller-backed Freemasons of the United States.

The American Freemasons are supposedly upset because the DPJ is trying to worm its way out of the agreement to move the Futenma air base to another location.

One part of this theory holds that Mr. Ozawa has convinced Chinese President Hu Jintao to agree to force North Korea to release the remaining Japanese abductees in North Korea this summer just before the July upper house election. That, goes the story, has enraged the Americans because it will allow the Chinese to maintain the upper hand in dealing with the North Koreans.

This yarn has faint echoes of the case against Mr. Ozawa’s mentor as a political boss, Tanaka Kakuei. His daughter Makiko, Prime Minister Koizumi’s first foreign minister, suspected the CIA of being behind the plot to bring down her father—an advocate of closer relations with China.

Those inclined to look for leaks, conspiracies and the print media’s involvement might have a point considering the rash of stories over the past two months describing Mr. Ozawa as a dictatorial, iron-fisted, anti-democrat who brooks no opposition inside the DPJ. They’re believable, seem well sourced, and have turned public opinion against Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ. There are now more people who do not support the Cabinet than do, a sharp reversal in just four months.

*****
Be that as it may, Mr. Ozawa is not helping his own cause. He is a very unlikely Sir Galahad. His political fund management committee has extensive real estate holdings, which have been a source of suspicion for years.

He hasn’t come up with plausible cover stories for the funding of the questionable real estate deal for which his aide was arrested, either. He’s told four different tales over the past year or so, and his most recent is that the money came from his father’s estate. Yesterday, however, a 27-year-old newspaper article surfaced in which Mr. Ozawa said that he received no money from his father’s estate.

When he finally did agree to talk to the prosecutors earlier this month, the conversation lasted four and a half hours in a Tokyo hotel room. He also reportedly spent several hours before the interview mulling over his strategy with his attorneys in a different room of the same hotel.

That doesn’t sound as if the facts behind the real estate deal in question and the money that paid for it are so cut and dried.

*****
This week, some influential members of the DPJ seemed as if they started to put some distance between the party and Mr. Ozawa. There wasn’t as much talk of a full frontal assault against the prosecutors as there was before. For example:

24 January
Sengoku Yoshito, Minister of State for Government Revitalization and Civil Service Reform

We’ll make a decision (on Mr. Ozawa) when the matter is resolved taking public opinion trends into account.

25 January
Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio

I support his continuation in his post for now.

(The Japanese immediately seized on the “for now” part, or 現在は (genzai ha). The Japanese expression makes it obvious that Mr. Hatoyama was giving a clear signal he might not be so supportive in the future.)

26 January
Prime Minister Hatoyama (Referring to the extensive real estate holdings of the Ozawa fund management group)

That wouldn’t be possible for an ordinary Diet member, and I don’t think (an ordinary Diet member) would do it. I think the people view that (in the same way).

Maehara Seiji, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport

(Fund management groups) shouldn’t use political funds to buy real estate.

Haraguchi Kazuhiro, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

Generally speaking, politicians and groups about whom there are suspicions must make a sincere effort to clear up those suspicions in the Diet.

(This one is also telling; Mr. Haraguchi is an Ozawa ally.)

29 January
Noda Yoshihiko, Deputy Finance Minister

I do not think the people want to return (government) to the LDP. The most important issue before us is achieving a stable government in the July upper house election. After some facts emerge (about Mr. Ozawa), we will make a judgment in accordance with that issue.

*****
It is theoretically possible that Mr. Ozawa is going to be vindicated, but that will take some time to play out.

In the meantime, staying on as DPJ Secretary-General could seriously harm the party’s chances of achieving a majority in this summer’s upper house election.

If the party disassociates itself from Mr. Ozawa, however, or if he is forced to resign his Diet seat, it’s an odds-on bet that the DPJ will not hold together for the three and a half years remaining in the lower house term.

Yet it’s also unlikely the LDP as presently constituted could regain power. As Mr. Noda says, the brand has become too degraded, and the current leadership is in such a retrograde mode, the public will not be willing to hand them the reins of government anytime soon.

The cement of Japanese politics is still wet.

Afterwords:

If you like conspiracy stories, you’ll love this. Rockefellers, Rothschilds, yakuza, the Imperial household, ninjas, earthquake machines–you name it, this one’s got it. In fact, this guy might be the source for the Rockefeller/Rothschild stories in the Japanese-language part of the web.

As whacked out as it is, I have to admit I was intrigued by the mention of LDP pol Kato Koichi getting wads of cash in an envelope, and the claim later in the interview that the North Koreans bought off the police and the LDP government with the income they received from Japanese pachinko parlors so the authorities would overlook their amphetamine exports.

Recall that Mr. Kato was adamantly opposed to the Abe hard line against North Korea…

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