Former Premier Kakuei Tanaka, the central figure in the $8 million Lockheed bribery and payoff scandal, broke down and cried during the first day of his trial today. Tanaka, 58, burst into tears and paused often as he read his prepared statement.
Tanaka lost control after reading a section of his text denying any collusion with former President Richard Nixon at the September 1972 Honolulu summit concerning the spurchase of 21 Lockheed TriStar jets by a major Japanese airline.
"For the honor of both the United States and Japan, I hereby state that nothing of that sort happened," he said.As he read the section saying, "My terrible misfortune has damaged the reputation of Japan," Tanaka pulled out a large white handkerchief and began to sob uncontrollably.
In contrast, Toshio Enomoto, Tanaka's personal secretary, took only a few seconds to deny all charges of conspiring with Tanaka to accept bribes or to violates Japan's foreign currency control laws.
The prosecution has prepared a 100-page case against Tanaka, Enomoto and three former executives of the giant Marubeni Trading House, agents of the Lockheed Aircraft Corp. Tanaka is accused of using his office influence All-Nippon Airways' choice of wide-bodied transport jets from the United States, while the three Marubeni executives are charged with passing on $1.7 million in cash from Lockheed in the form of bribe.
The Marubeni defendants are also accused of perjury in statements they made about the case to a committee of the Japanese Parliament last March.
Four prosecutors took turns reading the massively detailed charges that explained how Tanaka allegedly quoted Nixon as having a marked prefenrence for the Lockheed TriStar over the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 being marketed by the rival Mitsui Trading Co.
"Nixon told me he would be most pleased if we ordered Lockheed TriStars," Tanaka is alleged to have told a business friend Kenji Osano, a major shareholder in All-Nippon Airways.
In November 1972, two months after this alleged conversation, All-Nippon Airways ordered six Lockheed airbuses and placed an option to purchase 15 more. The cost of the aircraft came to more than $300 million.
The prosecution contends that Tanaka, while he was premier between July 1972 and November 1974, exerted influence over the Ministry of Transport to expedite matters for the airline. Purchase of foreign aircraft by major Japanese airlines cannot be made without the approval of the ministry.
The prosecution alleges that the executives of All-Nippon Airways were cool to Lockheed airplanes until Tanaka exerted influence on the airline's managers.
Tanakas pleaded not guilty to all charges before panel of three black-gowned judges.
"There is no reason for me to have received any money from Lockheed," he said, denying any knowledge of the $1.7 million bribe, which the prosecution says was delivered in paper boxes by Marubeni employees to Toshio Enomoto, Tanaka's secretary.
Hiroshi Itoh, one of the former Marubeni executives, admitted delivering large cardbox boxes to Enomoto on behalf of Lockheed but said he "had no idea" of what was inside them.
It has admitted signing a receipt that reads "I received 100 peanuts."
A. Carl Kotchian, a former president of Lockheed, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee last February that the word "peanut," along with such codes as "units" and "pieces," stood for 1 million yen ($3,000 each). The money allegedly went from Lockheed through Marubeni to Tanaka.
The defense attorneys attacked the Japanese courts' granting Lockheed executives Kotchian, J. W. Clutter and John Eliot immunity from prosecution. The defense lawyers said that there is no need for plea-bargaining or immunity under Japanese law, and that the taking of testimony under the supervision of foreign judges was a mockery of the independence of the Japanese judiciary.
Japanese prosecutors took depositions in Los Angeles last August from the three Lockheed men, who participate in the sale of the 21 planes.
The testimony of the Lockheed executives is said to contain outright missions of plans to bribe Tanaka with the help of Marubeni.
The suicide last year of Tanaka's chauffeur is expected to make the prosecution case more difficult, since the driver is said to be the only witness to the alleged transfer of funds.
Japanese newspapers predicted that the first verdict would not be handled down for three years.