Michiyo Stern, one of the two elder sisters of House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda, pleaded guilty Friday to illegally aiding his election campaign in 2012.
Stern, 46, entered her guilty plea at the start of her Tokyo District Court trial.
She stands accused of breaking the Public Offices Election Law by allegedly providing some ¥155.6 million in cash or airline tickets to 594 employees of Tokushukai — one of the country’s biggest hospital groups and run by the politician’s father — to persuade them to join Tokuda’s successful campaign for the Dec. 16, 2012, general election.
Tokuda, a 42-year-old independent who was elected to his third term, left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in November after his relatives were arrested.
Stern is also charged with providing ¥60 million to the campaigners for buying votes.
If Stern is convicted, Tokuda will likely be stripped of his Lower House seat under the guilty-by-association clause in the 1950 election law.
Tokuda, the son of Tokushukai founder Torao Tokuda, won the seat for the No. 2 constituency in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Torao Tokuda, 75, resigned as head of the Tokushukai group in October after the scandal broke. Stern is one of the 10 people who were indicted over election law violations linked to Tokuda’s campaign. Among the other nine were his mother, Hideko Tokuda, 75, and elder sister Narumi Koshizawa, 50.
In December, Stern told the Tokyo District Court in a 30-minute session held to explain the reasons for her detention that she was involved in rewarding Tokushukai employees who campaigned for her younger brother.
Stern said the Tokuda family played a key role in the illegal election campaign and urged her family members to tell the truth.
The Tokyo District Court is scheduled to hold the trials of the other nine defendants later in the year, starting in February.
Torao Tokuda is suspected to have played a key role in the illegalities, but prosecutors suspended their decision on whether to file charges against him because he has been hospitalized with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is incurable.
The Tokushukai scandal extended to former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who resigned in December after it was reported he had accepted a ¥50 million loan from the hospital chain in November 2012.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office is continuing its investigation into Inose, 67, who is accused by a citizens group of breaking the election law by allegedly failing to disclose the funds from Tokushukai in his election finance report