Fumio Abe, a party faction chief who led the maneuvering among ruling Liberal Democrats that put Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa into office, was indicted Saturday on a charge of accepting $640,000 in bribes.
The indictment, which bolstered suspicions about other members of Miyazawa's faction of the ruling party, promised to cause still more trouble for the prime minister, who has faced constant attacks since Abe, the 69-year-old secretary general of his faction, was arrested Jan. 13. Leaders of all five opposition parties immediately demanded parliamentary investigations into the still unfolding scandal.
In the indictment, prosecutors accused Abe of accepting the bribes between August, 1989, and January, 1990, in return for supplying Kyowa Corp. with information about government plans for the construction of roads near a resort complex under development by Kyowa, recommending the firm for government-financed loans and helping it seek a role in the construction of a domed sports stadium in Hokkaido.
Abe, whose Hakodate constituency is located near the planned resort, was serving as minister in charge of the Hokkaido-Okinawa Development Agency in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu when the alleged bribery took place, prosecutors said. They said that Abe admitted receiving funds from Kyowa but denied the bribery charge.
Although Abe resigned both his post as secretary general of Miyazawa's faction and his membership in the Liberal Democratic Party after he was arrested, he has refused to give up his seat in Parliament. All five opposition parties threatened Saturday to submit a resolution demanding his resignation.
Prosecutors also indicted Goro Moriguchi, 48, a former vice president of Kyowa, on a charge of bribing Abe. Kyowa, whose main business was steel processing, declared bankruptcy last year after being victimized in an unrelated embezzlement scheme.
Before returning to Tokyo today from the summit meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York, Miyazawa apologized again for the scandal.
"I apologize deeply to the public. I take this situation seriously. To regain the trust of the people in politics, I will exert all my efforts to establish political ethics and undertake political reforms," he said in a statement.
Although no hints of Miyazawa's personal involvement have emerged, about 1.8 billion yen ($14.4 million) worth of Kyowa political contributions reportedly remain to be accounted for.
Leaders of the five opposition parties said they would demand that two leading figures of Miyazawa's faction be summoned to testify in Parliament about reports that they had received Kyowa funds. The two are Zenko Suzuki, a former prime minister, and Jun Shiozaki, a former Cabinet member in charge of the Management and Coordination Agency. Both have denied the reports.
Shozo Hayakawa, a spokesman for the Komei Party, whose cooperation Miyazawa needs to enact bills in the upper house of Parliament, charged that Abe, "as secretary general of the Miyazawa faction, played a central role in creating the Miyazawa Cabinet. As head of the faction, Miyazawa's responsibility is grave."
The indictment of Abe not only elevated the political impact of the scandal, but threatened to delay enactment of the fiscal 1992 budget. Failure to pass the budget by the beginning of the fiscal year April 1 would add another black mark to Miyazawa's leadership, which already has been tarnished by his failure to win upper house passage of legislation in December to participate in disaster relief and U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Support for Miyazawa in public opinion polls conducted by the Yomiuri newspaper has fallen from 56% shortly after he took office last November to 40% in January.