Asia-Pacific

Japan's Ichiro Ozawa charged over funding scandal

Ichiro Ozawa
Image caption Ichiro Ozawa lost to Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a Democratic Party leadership race in September

Japan's Ichiro Ozawa, one of the governing Democratic Party's (DPJ) top figures, has been charged over a political fund-raising scandal.

Court officials said Mr Ozawa was indicted for alleged false reporting by his fund management company. The 68-year-old denies any wrongdoing.

The scandal has deeply divided the DPJ, which has been losing public support.

Last year, Mr Ozawa failed to unseat Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a party leadership challenge.

The move to charge Mr Ozawa was widely expected after a judicial panel of ordinary citizens, appointed to review the case, overturned an earlier decision by prosecutors not to lay charges.

Prosecutors had raided his offices and charged three of his former assistants, but said there was not enough evidence to take action against the politician himself.

But the judicial panel ruled in October that he must be tried.

Mr Ozawa has been so powerful in Japanese politics that he's known as the "shadow shogun".

He helped found the governing Democratic Party of Japan, and is widely credited with overseeing its 2009 election victory, which ended half a century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party.

But Mr Ozawa has been dogged by a scandal over political fund-raising, relating to a 2004 Tokyo land deal. He has dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.

Mr Ozawa has indicated that he has no intention of leaving the DPJ or quitting his parliamentary seat.

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