Hospital group founder questioned over money to ex-Tokyo gov.

Prosecutors questioned the founder of one of Japan's largest hospital chains, Tokushukai, on a voluntary basis Wednesday over the 50 million yen provided to former Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose who resigned late last year, sources close to the hospital group said.

The money was lent to Inose in December 2012 "to be used for his election campaign," Torao Tokuda, 76, was quoted as saying during questioning by the special investigative squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office at a hospital in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, according to the sources.

Although the former governor has repeatedly said the money was a personal loan, Tokuda's account contradicted it. Inose, 67, won the gubernatorial election in December 2012 and stepped down about a year later over the money scandal.

The prosecutors are investigating the matter following a criminal complaint filed by a civic group that claims Inose violated the public office election law as the money was not listed in his fund report for the gubernatorial election campaign.

If the 50 million yen was for the election, Inose was supposed to list it in the fund report, but he failed to do so.

Having met Tokuda for the first time on Nov. 6, 2012, Inose accepted the money from his son Takeshi Tokuda, 42, who was then a House of Representatives lawmaker, on Nov. 20.

Inose has argued he did not spend any of the 50 million yen because his now-deceased wife put it in a safety-deposit box.

But after he resigned as Tokyo governor last December, it became public knowledge that he handed over the 50 million yen to Mitsuhiro Kimura, the 57-year-old leader of an ultra-nationalist group who had acted as an intermediary between Inose and Tokuda to enable their meeting to take place.

Meanwhile, Tokuda senior is suspected of having played an important role in the hospital group's illegal election campaign linked to his son in the lower house's Kagoshima No. 2 district.

But the prosecutors suspended a decision on whether to criminally charge Torao as he has been hospitalized due to an incurable disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Takeshi's elder sisters were found guilty of providing around 155.6 million yen in cash or airline tickets to 594 employees of the Tokushukai group and another 60 million yen to them for vote-buying purposes during a 2012 general election. Takeshi gave up his seat in parliament last month.