LDP Kato's money power needs probe -- Akahata editorial, March 10

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office special investigation division arrested Sato Saburo, ex-director of the office of former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Kato Koichi (House of Representatives member), on suspicion of tax evasion.

Sato is suspected of evading about 100 million yen (about 780,000 dollars) in income tax for three years through 2000, concealing 270 million yen (about two million dollars) which he earned from arranging for local public works projects and private construction projects to be undertaken by a particular firm in Yamagata Prefecture, Kato's constituency.

Kato and Sato are one in body and mind seeking prime-ministership

Colossal tax evasion is the charge facing Sato, but that is only a fraction of the problem involved, given that he earned enormous profits by using public works projects, and that he was the Kato office's director and treasurer in charge of the management of Kato's political funds and LDP local branch funds.

When the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau searched Sato's house and a construction company office in Yamagata Prefecture in January, Kato stressed that the search had nothing to do with the Kato office, thus categorically denying that he played any role in arranging for contracts or taking money.

When Kato said, "I apologize for paying little attention to office affairs," following Sato's arrest, he was dismissing it with as something that has nothing to do with him. How can he take such an attitude?

Since suspect Sato became the director of the Kato Office in 1993, political funds for Kato sharply increased. No doubt this helped Kato's rise to the position of LDP secretary general, and allowed him to maintain his faction and seek to become the next prime minister of Japan.

Sato as the treasurer of the Kato office used to say, "Mr. Kato concentrates on politics and I take care of routine chores." Kato totally relied on Sato's fund raising talents. The two really have been one in seeking the prime-ministership.

Another key question is how Sato could raise Kato to the number one position in the collection of political funds.

Sato earned rewards for arranging for public works projects to be undertaken by particular contractor companies for local governments. Ha also collected money from construction companies to establish a road maintenance company, saying that the new company will be in charge of road maintenance as a whole.

The present tax evasion case shows that Sato collected money skillfully and high-handedly in Kato's constituency, taking advantage of Kato's reputation.

Sato received money also from private companies, such as a major entertainment agency and a confectionery maker, as rewards for his good offices.

The bribery case involving Gyosai Toshi Kaihatsu Kenkyujo shows that a politician's secretary is able to get easy money by providing good offices because he is backed by the influential politician.

How has he used the money that he collected and concealed? Hasn't the money been used for Kato's political activities? This is a serious question that must be answered.

Kato insisted that he hasn't been aware of Sato's tax evasion and that Sato never mixed up private matters and political activities. Such remarks are not convincing.

Kato must tell the truth before the Diet as a sworn witness.

Corrupt nature has not changed

In the Suzuki Muneo scandal, which is now the focus of public attention, Suzuki is suspected of having interfered with foreign policy and used it as a means of gaining concessions. The corrupt relationship between politicians, government officials, and business people, which enables lobbyist-politicians to sponge from taxpayers money, has been brought to light.

The scandal involving Kato shows that this ugly structure of plutocracy has been present in many fields under Liberal Democratic Party governments.

Although Prime Minister Koizumi called for a change in the LDP when he became the prime minister 10 months ago, the corrupt nature of the party hasn't been changed at all. (end)