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Vote-buying probe nets arrest of Tokuda’s mom

Kyodo

Prosecutors arrested six people, including the mother of a Lower House lawmaker, on Wednesday as part of the vote-buying and campaign-funding scandal embroiling the Tokushukai hospital group.

They are suspected of providing local politicians and others with ¥60 million in vote-buying funds for the 2012 election.

Hideko Tokuda, 75, is suspected of providing around ¥20 million to the campaign office of her son, Takeshi, in December for the campaign that was held that month.

The lawmaker’s indicted elder sister, Michiyo Stern, 46, is believed to have provided around ¥30 million.

Some of that ¥50 million and another ¥10 million from other sources are suspected to have been provided to Tokuda’s campaign office in his Kagoshima Prefecture district from last November to December, according to the sources.

In addition to Tokuda’s mother, the special investigative squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office served fresh arrest warrants Wednesday to four executives of Tokushukai, including Stern, while newly arresting another man on suspicion of providing vote-buying funds. The prosecutors also raided the group’s Tokyo headquarters.

Hideko Tokuda was quoted as telling prosecutors before her arrest, “I provided the campaign money, but I was not informed of how it was used.”

The Tokyo prosecutors, in cooperation with the Kagoshima police, are questioning local politicians in Kagoshima suspected of having received the vote-buying money. One told a reporter after being questioned, “I did not receive the money.”

Tokushukai was founded by the lawmaker’s father, Torao Tokuda, in Osaka in 1973. He is also believed to have been involved in the alleged election violation but has avoided arrest due to his poor health. He is suffering from an incurable motor neuron disease.

On Tuesday, the prosecutors indicted the lawmaker’s two sisters — Stern and Narumi Koshizawa, 50 — and six other Tokushukai executives on a charge of providing rewards to group employees who worked on the campaign in the Kagoshima No. 2 district, where Liberal Democratic Party candidate Takeshi Tokuda won a third term in the election.

Tokuda left the ruling LDP after the election violation allegations emerged.