TOKYO -- After months of rumors and speculation, another scandal involving the governing Liberal Democratic Party broke yesterday with police raids on the offices of a large trucking company that is reported to have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to top politicians and organized crime.
A series of scandals have tainted politicians both in and out of government since disclosures of improper payoffs to members of Parliament toppled Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita in 1989. But the amounts reportedly involved in the current scandal are far larger than those in the past.
More ominously, reports have suggested that the company raided yesterday for evidence, Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin Co., might have acted as a conduit linking some of the nation's top political leaders and the yakuza, or organized crime groups. Included in the list of targets of the raids were the offices of the Inagawa-kai, Japan's second-largest yakuza family.
News reports have said the Inagawa-kai leader used some of the money for a major stock manipulation scheme disclosed last year. In that scheme the yakuza figure received financing and assistance from Nomura Securities Co., the world's largest brokerage house, which was hit with a heavy penalty for its sales practices in the episode.
Parliament has already been paralyzed by opposition party demands for hearings into another scandal in which a former Cabinet member who is close to Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa was indicted on bribery charges.
The raids yesterday were widely expected. Japanese news organizations were waiting at the offices when the police and prosecutors arrived, and reports of the raids dominated evening television news as well as afternoon newspapers, which emphasized their political implications.
Although the prosecutors have not made any information public, the news reports highlighted allegations that Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin, a major parcel delivery company, may have provided more than $1 billion to the yakuza as well as politicians in both the governing and opposition parties.