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House of Representatives member Yojiro Nakajima, 39, pleaded guilty Thursday to providing 20 million yen to his supporters to buy votes during the 1996 general election, and said he will resign from the Diet.

At the Tokyo District Court, Nakajima admitted he gave a total of 20 million yen to three leaders of his supporters’ group — Kozo Oshio, 72, a company executive; Yasushige Iida, 61, a former member of the Ota Municipal Assembly in Gunma Prefecture; and Etsuo Shimizu, 44, a former secretary for Nakajima. “I admit the charges in the indictment,” Nakajima said in a trembling voice. “I will step down from my post as a Lower House member to express my apology to the public and the people of Gunma Prefecture.”

Nakajima also gave 200,000 yen to Iida and Yukio Arai, 51, also a former Ota assembly member and Nakajima’s campaign manager, as remuneration for helping Nakajima garner votes during his campaign for the Lower House election, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Iida asked Nakajima for 20 million yen in election campaign money, including money to buy votes for Nakajima, in mid-September 1996.

At the beginning of October that year, before the election campaign officially started, Nakajima handed 10 million yen to Iida at Iida’s home, prosecutors said. Nakajima also gave Iida 200,000 yen for helping him gather votes, they said. Nakajima gave Iida another 10 million yen a few days later, also at Iida’s home, they said.

Prosecutors alleged Iida, not Nakajima, played the key role in the vote-buying. They said Iida talked Nakajima into buying his supporters by saying it would be costly to win an election. “It is necessary for the Nakajima group to gain support from local assembly members,” Iida was quoted as saying in the indictment. “What we need is the gasoline fee for that.”

Nakajima agreed and provided money to the supporters, prosecutors said.

Before his trial began Thursday, Nakajima had been served three arrest warrants in connection with five charges — a rare plight for an incumbent politician.

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