Tokyo prosecutors, and even higher ups, turned a blind eye to a deposition in the criminal case involving political bigwig Ichiro Ozawa that was supposedly made by a former aide and likely doctored by an investigator.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office was aware as early as January 2011 that remarks attributed to Tomohiro Ishikawa were likely the fanciful imagination of Masahiro Tashiro, who was part of the team investigating Ozawa's political fund management organization, Rikuzankai.
Tashiro questioned Ishikawa, a Lower House member, on May 17, 2010. At that time, Ishikawa was out on bail.
Ishikawa was questioned over suspicions, never proven, that Ozawa had conspired with aides to falsify entries in political fund reports.
Tashiro sent a report to the head of the special investigative unit at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office about his questioning of Ishikawa concerning the period between January and February 2010, after his arrest on suspicion of falsifying the Rikuzankai political fund reports.
He wrote about the reason Ishikawa gave for admitting that Ozawa conspired in the effort to make false entries.
Tashiro wrote that Ishikawa said: "What blindsided me was when prosecutors told me during questioning, 'You became a Diet member on the strength of support from 110,000 voters. So if you lie, you will be betraying those voters.'"
However, it emerged during Ozawa's trial proceedings last December that Ishikawa had secretly taped the questioning by Tashiro and that Ishikawa had never made any such utterance.
Tashiro, testifying at Ozawa's trial, said: "It took me several days to compile the report and I became confused with the memory I had of what Ishikawa said soon after his arrest. It was not a false entry."
Tokyo prosecutors realized early on that there was a discrepancy in the report submitted by Tashiro, sources said.
They learned of the discrepancy when defense lawyers presented a record of the secret recording by Ishikawa before the start of Ishikawa's own trial in February of that year.
A report about the discrepancy was passed to the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, and Tashiro was asked for an explanation.
At that point, the prosecutors office decided that Tashiro did not deliberately lie in his report. It accepted his explanation that he became confused because of a similar exchange with Ishikawa soon after he was arrested.
However, before prosecutors realized that Tashiro's report did not add up, they submitted it to the prosecution inquest panel that eventually decided Ozawa should be indicted--even though prosecutors on two occasions had determined there was no case to answer.
At the Feb. 17 session of Ozawa's trial in the Tokyo District Court, the judges blasted Tashiro's interrogation methods, calling them "illegal and inappropriate." They threw out all testimony from Ishikawa that named Ozawa as a co-conspirator.
The judges said it was difficult to believe Tashiro's explanation that he had become confused in submitting a deposition in which remarks attributed to Ishikawa were clearly false.
A citizens group has filed a criminal complaint against Tashiro, accusing him of falsifying public documents.
Prosecutors are questioning Tashiro and those at higher levels to determine if they should face criminal charges or other disciplinary measures.
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