Former Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami on Monday was sentenced to 22 months in prison, suspended for five years, after being found guilty of making illegal payments to his campaign staff in his unsuccessful Tokyo gubernatorial bid in February 2014.
The ruling was handed down by the Tokyo District Court. Tamogami, 68, had pleaded not guilty before the trial, maintaining that he did not give approval to a senior staff member to pay money, Fuji TV reported.
Tamogami was indicted on a charge of conspiring with senior campaign staff in paying 2 million yen to his then campaign manager Nobuteru Shimamoto, and a total of 2.8 million yen to five other staffers between March and May in 2014.
Under the election law, paying campaign staff is banned in principle because it amounts to bribery.
Prosecutors said Tamogami readily agreed to give financial rewards and even suggested they be increased from 1 million yen to 2 million yen when the senior campaign staff sought his permission to pay Shimamoto who is being tried separately.
The defense counsel, however, claimed that though the senior campaign staff proposed paying Shimamoto, Tamogami did not approve the move. Tamogami did not confirm if the payment was made because he did not think it was an important issue, it said.
Tamogami told a news conference after the verdict that he was disappointed because prosecutors failed to present any tangible evidence of a conspiracy and that he felt the trial was unfair, Fuji reported. He said he intends to appeal.
In 2008, Tamogami was removed as ASDF chief of staff after an essay he wrote justifying Japan's wartime aggression was made public. He retired soon afterward.
© Japan Today/Kyodo