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TOKYO —

Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami on suspicion of violating the election law by paying cash to campaign staff members who supported him in his unsuccessful bid for the Tokyo governorship in February 2014.

Tamogami, 67, was arrested together with his then election secretariat chief Nobuteru Shimamoto, 69, for allegedly paying a total of 2.8 million yen in cash as remuneration to five campaign staffers between March and May 2014. Shimamoto is also suspected of receiving 2 million yen from Tamogami.

Tamogami told reporters earlier that he had initially “approved” the payments but later told Shimamoto he disagreed with the idea. Such payments are banned in principle as they are considered bribes.

“It seems that I’m going to be arrested. I cannot triumph over state power,” Tamogami said in a Twitter post prior to his arrest by the Tokyo prosecutors.

He also told reporters when leaving his home in Tokyo on Thursday morning, “There is no change in my argument.” The former ASDF chief had told reporters earlier he had been unaware of the illegality of such payments.

The prosecutors are investigating whether political funds were used to pay the remuneration, given that Tamogami’s fund management group and a political body he heads declared a total of 55.41 million yen as unaccounted-for expenditure in their 2014 funds reports.

The investigators suspect the unaccounted-for expenditure was used for the payments in question, investigative sources said.

Tamogami collected a total of around 132 million yen in 2014 through donations and other means, according to the reports on political funds. He said prior to his arrest that about 14 million yen of the money had been provided to him to cover expenses related to his political activities.

The prosecutors suspect Tamogami misused around 4.5 million yen of the sum for private purposes, including medical costs, the sources said.

They already searched Tamogami’s office in Tokyo and other places in March on suspicion of the misuse of political funds for private purposes, confiscating a list of the remuneration amounts for staff members.

The Public Offices Election Law prohibits payments to election campaign staff, although there are some exceptions such as announcers who ride in campaign cars to publicize the name of candidates and people who do clerical work.

Sources close to the matter said Tamogami had discussions about the payments with the election secretariat chief in March 2014, during which the chief showed a list of staff members and said, “I want to hand out 20 million yen (to them).”

When a male election staffer later met Tamogami and thanked him for the payment, Tamogami said the sum had been “increased” and added, “I have treated you well,” according to the sources.

The man received 2 million yen, although the list showed that the man was supposed to receive 1 million yen, the sources said.

Tamogami attempted to make a foray into politics after he was removed as ASDF chief of staff in October 2008 over an essay he wrote justifying Japan’s wartime aggression, retiring from the ASDF soon after. The essay upset the then defense minister, who said Tamogami’s view ran counter to that of the government.

In 2014, Tamogami ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election as an independent candidate and the House of Representatives election on the ticket of a small conservative opposition party. But he was defeated in both races.

Shimamoto was also an ASDF officer. After leaving the force in 1989, he served as secretary for several Diet members over around 20 years. He ran in the lower house election in 2000 but failed to win a seat.

A man who supported Tamogami during the gubernatorial election said, “Mr Tamogami seemed to be especially trusting of people from the Self-Defense Forces.”

Another man who also served in his election staff said, “You could say Mr Tamogami is pure-hearted, or conversely, he is ignorant of the real world.”

© KYODO

Tag(s) : #Asia-Pacific

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