OSAKA — Police on Monday raided the Kinki Postal Administration Office following the arrest of its head official Sunday in connection with a vote-rigging scandal.
Tsuyoshi Mishima, 59, was arrested on suspicion of urging some 100 postmasters to join a support group for Kenji Koso, a newly elected lawmaker in the House of Councilors, during a March meeting of special post office chiefs in Osaka.
He is also suspected of ordering various activities aimed at boosting support for Koso, police said.
Mishima’s activities are believed to violate the Public Offices Election Law.
He is the 14th person to be arrested in connection with the election of Koso, who ran on the Liberal Democratic Party ticket in last month’s Upper House poll.
Investigators plan to search the office and several other locations for evidence linking Mishima to the alleged offenses, police sources said.
Police believe, for example, that Mishima used his office to discuss illegal election activities with other senior officials from late last year through last January.
Senior officials allegedly advised Mishima on several occasions regarding how he should solicit the postmasters’ support at the March 7 meeting.
Mishima allegedly approved of their suggestions, they said.
Other officials arrested in connection with the case include Tsunehiko Nishida, 55, head of the office’s general affairs department, and Takayumki Mori, 44, assistant director in the office’s general affairs section.
Seijiro Adachi, chief of the Postal Services Agency, told a news conference, “It’s extremely regrettable that the top official in the Kinki region was arrested. I apologize deeply to the public.”
Adachi refused to elaborate on his comments, saying the investigation is still under way.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the campaign constituted an “excessive” attempt to thwart his plans to privatize the nation’s postal services.
Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, slammed Koso’s election campaign for its reliance on organizational support and urged him to resign as an Upper House member.
“There is no doubt that Koso bears moral responsibility and should step down before his legal responsibility becomes a subject,” he told a party gathering.
He added that Koizumi, whom Hatoyama described as a man who loathes cozy ties within the nation’s bureaucratic system, should swiftly take action as the LDP’s president to address the issue.
Mishima’s office oversees 7,000 post offices in six prefectures in western Japan. His post was formerly held by Koso between June 1998 and July 1999.
Koso could be stripped of his lawmaker status if Mishima is convicted of election violations under the “guilty by association” stipulation in the election legislation.
Under the law, if a former government employee runs in a national election held within three years of resigning from the bureaucracy, election violations by the person’s successor committed at the request of the candidate would invalidate the candidate’s election and bar the person from running in the same constituency for five years.
Mishima entered the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry in 1965 and became head of the Kinki office in June last year after serving as chief of the Shikoku Postal Administration Office. Koso said that neither he nor his campaign staff ever asked Mishima to support his campaign.
He also denied any involvement in the case and ruled out the possibility of quitting.
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