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Diet lawmaker’s sister admits election fraud

Tokuda snared by court confession of 2012 vote-buying funds

Kyodo

One of the two elder sisters of House of Representatives lawmaker Takeshi Tokuda has admitted breaking the Public Offices Election Law by providing vote-buying funds to her brother for the December 2012 general election.

During a session Friday at the Tokyo District Court, one of the judges told Michiyo Stern, 46, why she was being detained. Stern said she had no objections to the indictment.

She also said the Tokuda family played a key role in the scandal and urged her relatives, particularly her father, Torao Tokuda, the 75-year-old founder and former head of the Tokushukai hospital group, to take responsibility and tell the truth.

If Stern is found guilty, Tokuda will likely lose his Lower House seat through guilt by association.

Stern, her elder sister, Narumi Koshizawa, and four Tokushukai officials were arrested Nov. 12 on suspicion of illegally rewarding group employees who agreed to campaign for Tokuda, who was elected from Kagoshima Prefecture’s No. 2 district.

On Dec. 3, Stern, Koshizawa and the Tokushukai officials were all charged with breaking the election law by paying off voters and campaign workers.

On Dec. 4, Stern was served with a fresh arrest warrant. Prosecutors also arrested the lawmaker’s mother, Hideko Tokuda, 75, on suspicion of paying off local legislators during his 2012 Lower House campaign.

In Friday’s court session, Judge Akinobu Mizobuchi said detention was necessary in Stern’s case because she might destroy evidence or flee if released from custody. Under the 1948 Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects who are detained can request the reasons.

The prosecutors, however, did not arrest Tokushukai founder Torao Tokuda, who has an incurable motor neuron disease and is under long-term care at one of the group’s hospitals.

The younger Tokuda, now in his third term in the Diet’s lower chamber, recently left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to become an independent after some of his associates were arrested in November.

Kagoshima’s five single-seat constituencies cover the eponymous capital, the cities of Ibusuki and Minamikyushu, and municipalities on remote islands, including the town of Tokunoshima. Tokuda’s ailing father hails from Tokunoshima Island.

In December 2012, Tokuda was appointed as parliamentary secretary in charge of infrastructure and transport and of reconstruction from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. But he resigned the following February after a scandal broke over his relationship with a woman.