Ozawa career at crossroads as aides convicted

09/27/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) — Former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Ichiro Ozawa’s political career is at the crossroads Sept. 27 following the conviction Monday of three aides for political funding violations.

Ozawa, whose membership of the DPJ is currently suspended pending the result of his own trial for having allegedly overseen the aides’ illegal accounting processes, had been hoping for a not guilty verdict for at least Takanori Okubo, who was in charge of his accounting.

However, Okubo was found guilty by the Tokyo District Court and given a three-year jail sentence, suspended for five years. Also convicted were administrative aides Tomohiro Ishikawa, now a member of the House of Representatives, and Mitsutomo Ikeda, whose terms of two and one years, respectively, were also suspended.

A verdict in Ozawa’s case is expected to be handed down in April next year. Had Okubo been found not guilty, it would likely have increased the chances of Ozawa avoiding conviction.

Ozawa had planned to try and have his DPJ membership restored following his trial and then actively engage in the ruling party’s presidential election in September next year.

“I’m shattered,” a Lower House member of Ozawa’s DPJ faction said on condition of anonymity. “This will all have an impact on Mr. Ozawa’s trial.”

Ozawa shut himself in his office for most of Monday and refused to comment to the media about the trials.

Ozawa is standing trial after a judiciary panel demanded he face the court. Prosecutors had earlier decided not to charge him for a lack of evidence, but the panel overruled the decision. Ozawa remains a powerful player in Japanese political circles, but is unpopular among voters due to a perception of him being a backdoor wheeler-dealer.

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