Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Age Of Innocence

With the Democratic Party of Japan under the leadership of Noda Yoshihiko rolling back many of the changes the party promised in the 2009 manifesto...

1) the elimination of the child allowance (kodomo teate) and the reinstitution of the child support payment system (jido teate)

2) the proposed restart of construction of the Yamba Dam

3) the raising of the consumption tax without calling an election

4) permitting bureaucrats, in particular the head of the Cabinet Legislative Office, to testify in Diet committee session could come away with the impression that there is not a yen's worth of difference in between living under the rule of the DPJ and living under the rule of the Liberal Democratic Party.

However, there is one major difference in the way the machinery of government functions now and the way it did under the previous regime -- and it is of such vital importance that persons of conscience must pray that some way, somehow, the DPJ wins back the support of the voters in the months ahead:

Under the DPJ, the organs of the law have not been used to capriciously imprison those who buck the system.

Under the LDP, the prosecutors office sent former Livedoor president Horie Takafumi to prison on charges that, if they had been applied to Japan's banking community, would have sent hundreds, if not thousands, of bank executives to prison. The confessions that were the sole pieces of evidence of Horie's complicity in misstating the value of Livedoor assets were extracted from his subordinates by placing them in solitary confinement in unheated cells during one of the coldest winters in the last half-century and threatening them with lengthy prison sentences should they not identify their employer as a co-conspirator.

The prosecutors office sent activist investor Murakami Yoshiaki to prison based solely on a confession police tricked a naive Murakami into making. Livedoor executives, who testified against each other in their own trials, were united in stating that Murakami was innocent.

Just when it seemed predestined that Ozawa Ichiro was going to be prime minister of Japan after the next House of Representatives election, the prosecutors moved in on Ozawa Ichiro political secretary Okubo Takanori for campaign funding violations, ostensibly for knowingly accepting donations from a private organization founded and funded by a mid-sized construction company for the purpose of evading campaign finance rules. The Okubo arrest meant Ozawa had to resign as DPJ leader, robbing him of his rightful chance to become PM. He was able to engineer the election of his ally/puppet Hatoyama Yukio as his successor but this was a poor substitute for actually winning the top prize.

Prosecutors used the Okubo arrest as a pretext for seizing the records of Ozawa and his funding organization, the Rikuzankai. They then proceeded to go on a fishing expedition, trolling through the records for something, anything to send Ozawa to prison.

What they found was a mis-recording in the 2004, 2005 and 2007 (but strangely, not the 2006) Rikuzankai accounts of a personal loan Ozawa extended to the organization. The loaned sum was used as collateral (tampo) for a bank loan (in Japan, unless you borrow from the consumer finance companies, you can only borrow money if you can prove you can pay the full amount of the loan back, immediately). The recording mistakes were such that if that were they found in the accounts of any other politician, they would have earned the perpetrators a stern verbal warning. Instead member of the House of Representatives and former Ozawa secretary Ishikawa Tomohiro and Ozawa secretary Ikeda Mitsutomo were arrested and convicted of campaign finance violations.

With Ozawa as the party with fiduciary responsibility in the case, his name and seal appearing on the first page of the account books, the prosecutors could certainly have gone after him next. However, somehow in the interim, something has dulled the heretofore zealous prosecutors office. It certainly had the right target: the most unpopular, least-trusted politician in the country; a man who behaves like a complete jerk toward even his ostensible allies; a person disappears from public view, only to reappear wearing a surgical mask, whenever things heat up; and a man with a seemingly inexhaustible, to borrow an image from Okumura Jun, ATM located in his home.

Nevertheless, the prosecutors refused to indict Ozawa on anything. It was left up to the never-say-die mugwumps of the "The Association of Those Seeking the Truth" (Shinjitsu o motomeru kai) to force the courts into appointing a trio of lawyers from the Tokyo #2 Bar Association (and boy, did it take a long time to find three lawyers willing to sacrifice their time, potential income and reputations on the case) to file an indictment of Ozawa not on the provable charge of fiduciary negligence but on unprovable charges of conspiracy to file falsified campaign documents -- unprovable because the sole piece of evidence was a confession forced from Ishikawa that he had told Ozawa about the misleading records, evidence that the judge in Ishikawa's trial threw out as a product of prosecutorial misconduct.

That the judge in the Ozawa case would also throw out the confession was nearly guaranteed (judges in Japanese courts looooovvvve precedent). He did indeed throw it out, pretty much ending the chances of a guilty verdict (the judge's verdict will be delivered on April 26).

Anyway, since the election of a DPJ-led government, we have seen nothing of the "the nail that sticks up will be hammered down" miscarriages of justice of the kind that sent Horie and Murakami and may still send Okubo, Ishikawa and Ikeda to prison. With the DPJ in power it is the nose-thumbers, the outcasts and the misfits (and the occasional mostly harmless loony) who have control of the asylum.

That is the way it should have been years ago. For this blessed land's sake, that is the way it should remain.

No comments: