Japan top politician Ozawa found not guilty

The Tokyo District Court found former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa not guilty Thursday over his alleged involvement in a shady land deal by his political funds management group, Rikuzan-kai.

The acquittal of the DPJ heavyweight is certain to affect political developments in this country, observers say.

The team of court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors in the trial had demanded a three-year prison term for Ozawa, 69, on charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office had decided not to indict Ozawa because its special investigation squad was unable to find sufficient evidence to establish a case against him.

However, after the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution concluded twice that Ozawa merited indictment, he was indicted in January last year.

Ozawa pleaded not guilty in the trial, which started in October.

The court-appointed lawyers argued that Rikuzan-kai purchased a plot of land in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, in October 2004 to build a dormitory for Ozawa's secretaries.

Rikuzan-kai received a cash loan of 400 million yen from Ozawa as part of the funds to purchase the property, but failed to list the money in its political funds report for 2004, they said.

It instead listed its spending on the land purchase in a report the following year.

The lawyers also argued that Ozawa had been informed by his secretaries about these decisions and approved them.

In connection with the land deal, House of Representatives member Tomohiro Ishikawa, 38, who was responsible for administrative work at Rikuzan-kai, and two other former secretaries were indicted on charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

Last year, the Tokyo District Court handed down suspended sentences to all three secretaries.

They have appealed to a higher court.

The mandatory indictment system was introduced following the enactment of the revised Inquest of Prosecution Law in May 2009.

Ozawa's case is the second in which a defendant indicted under this system was found not guilty.

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