JAPANESE political kingpin Ichiro Ozawa has been cleared of fundraising fraud charges.The 69-year-old veteran once dubbed the “shadow shogun” is now expected to step up his destabilisation campaign against current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his allies.Mr Ozawa – a former leader of the Democratic Party of Japan – had been indicted for allegedly falsifying the accounts of his fundraising body to conceal its use as a slush fund for political donations.His aides had said the mistake was purely technical and their boss had not been aware of it.
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A split in Japans centre-left ruling party deepened Tuesday as it suspended the membership of the premiers key rival, faction boss Ichiro Ozawa, who faces charges over a funding scandal.Prime Minister Naoto Kan — battling cabinet approval ratings below 20 percent and the threat of parliamentary gridlock — last week faced down a revolt by 16 Ozawa supporters who threatened not to vote with his government.Ozawa, a veteran backroom fixer sometimes dubbed the "Shadow Shogun", last year failed in a bid to topple Kan as head of the Democratic Party of Japan DPJ and prime minister but has remained a thorn in his side since then.A scandal over political funding irregularities has long hung over Ozawa and given ammunition to the conservative opposition, which has threatened to block key budget financing bills in the divided Diet legislature.Prosecutors in January indicted Ozawa, 68, over the affair. He and three former aides who also face trial deny any wrongdoing.Ozawa, in talks with the DPJs ethics panel, proclaimed his innocence and said there was "no rational reason" he should be suspended.Kans DPJ has repeatedly urged Ozawa to stand down, worried the scandal will taint the party with the whiff of Japans old-style money politics.
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Japanese ruling party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa was charged on Monday over a funding scandal, Jiji news agency said, a widely expected judicial move that could widen a rift in the ruling party over whether he should leave the party.
Ozawa’s indictment will give fresh ammunition to opposition parties that control parliament’s upper house and are refusing to join multiparty talks on tax reform to curb Japan’s huge debt and instead trying to force Prime Minister Naoto Kan to either resign or call a snap election for the powerful lower chamber.
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