June 19, 2020
Tokyo- Former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who was arrested Thursday over alleged vote-buying, distributed cash to members of local city and prefectural assemblies as "money for teacakes," sources told Jiji Press Friday.
The former minister, 57, and his 46-year-old wife, Anri, were arrested for allegedly violating the public offices election law during Anri's campaign in the July 2019 election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament.
Prosecutors, including the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, raided the local offices of Katsuyuki and Anri in the western Japan city of Hiroshima on Friday. They suspect that Katsuyuki, a member of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, handed the money in a way that is hard for recipients to decline in order to shore up votes for his wife.
A lawyer who met with Anri at Tokyo District Court on Friday said the suspect denied having committed any illegal act. Katsuyuki is also denying the charges.
According to a city assembly member in Hiroshima who received 300,000 yen from Katsuyuki, the former minister handed the local politician an envelope containing the cash by saying that it was money for teacakes, when the two met several days before the Hiroshima city assembly election in April last year.
The city assembly member refused to take the cash, but Katsuyuki left the envelope on the table at the member's office.
"There were many people, so I did not want to quarrel," the city assembly member said. "I was busy with the election and could not return the money."
"He suddenly came, so it was like a surprise attack," the local politician added.
According to one member of the Hiroshima prefectural assembly, Katsuyuki handed an envelope containing 300,000 yen to a family member while the assembly member was not at home.
Another prefectural assembly member received 300,000 yen soon after being elected into office.
"He said 'congratulations' and handed the envelope to me," the assembly member said. "I thought it was a congratulatory gift, so I didn't reject it."
The two prefectural assembly members later returned the money.
Anri won a seat in the Upper House for the first time by running in last year's election from the Hiroshima prefectural constituency.
Katsuyuki is suspected of using similar methods to distribute money to other local politicians as well. The Tokyo special investigation squad and the Hiroshima District Public Prosecutors Office are investigating the alleged distribution of a total of some 25.7 million yen to 94 people by examining the materials collected through the raids of Katsuyuki's offices in Hiroshima and Tokyo, aiming to uncover the whole picture of the vote-buying scandal.
The Kawais left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party earlier this week. Jiji Press
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