The Tokyo High Court on Friday sliced two months off the prison sentence of Eiichi Nakao, the aging former construction minister who sought clemency for his bribe-taking and influence peddling.
The 73-year-old former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker had appealed a two-year prison term and a 60 million yen fine levied by the Tokyo District Court in October 2002.
His lawyers insisted that a prison term was too harsh for Nakao, who uses a wheelchair because of lower back pain.
But Presiding Judge Yu Shiraki refused to suspend the sentence.
``This is a vicious crime that is a menace to fairness in the public administration,'' Shiraki said.
The court upheld the 60 million yen fine but knocked two months off the prison term, taking into account that Nakao had, as atonement, given 30 million yen to the Japan Legal Aid Association, a nongovernmental organization that provides legal assistance to people who cannot afford it.
Nakao was convicted of receiving 60 million yen in bribes from Wakachiku Construction Co. in 1996 in exchange for influencing the bidding process for public works projects.
Shiraki noted that, of the 60 million yen in bribes, a total of 50 million yen was demanded by Nakao's former aide. The judge dismissed defense claims that neither the former minister nor his aide had asked the construction company for money.
Defense lawyers also said Nakao deserved only a suspended sentence.
But Shiraki didn't buy their arguments, saying Nakao had demeaned a state minister's position and destroyed public trust.
``Although he is old and is repeatedly hospitalized, I don't think a two-year prison term given in the first trial is too harsh,'' the high court judge said.(IHT/Asahi: November 22,2003)