Japan 'kingpin' questioned over scandal


Japanese prosecutors have questioned Ichiro Ozawa, the 'kingmaker' of the ruling coalition, over an alleged funding scandal that has rocked the centre-left government. Mr Ozawa, 67, secretary general of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), appeared for questioning at a Tokyo hotel after weeks of refusals, Japanese public broadcaster NHK and Jiji Press said. More than 200 reporters and photographers swarmed outside the building waiting for Mr Ozawa, often dubbed the government's "shadow shogun."

The affair has dealt a serious blow to Mr Hatoyama, who has seen his public support slide rapidly ahead of a national election in July seen as a test for the DPJ's ability to hold on to power over the long term. Prosecutors have raided Mr Ozawa's offices and arrested three of his former or current aides to investigate whether he took millions of dollars in bribes from construction firms and invested the money in Tokyo property.

Mr Ozawa, the veteran of Japanese backroom politics and the architect of last summer's landslide election win, has angrily professed his innocence and publicly questioned the motives of the prosecutors.

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