• Kyodo

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A former Lower House member from the Democratic Party of Japan under arrest for drug possession began to use stimulants some time after he was first elected in 2000, investigative sources said Monday.

Kenji Kobayashi, 41, who lost his seat in the Sept. 11 general election, was arrested Sunday along with his two aides. He ran on the ticket of the biggest opposition party in the Aichi No. 7 district.

Quoting people who worked at Kobayashi’s election office, the investigative sources said Kobayashi began to use stimulants around 2001, a year after he was first elected to the Diet, on a friend’s advice.

As his use of stimulants escalated, Kobayashi “doped” himself during his campaign for the latest general election — even in his campaign vehicle, from where he pitched policy speeches against the ruling bloc — the sources said.

Kobayashi, whose corporate experience included working as a foreign-exchange broker at Ueda Harlow Ltd., was re-elected in 2003 and named the DPJ’s vice Diet affairs chief last January.

Arrested Sunday with Kobayashi were his private secretary, Koshi Ando, 41, and a former aide, Masaharu Saeki, 40. The three face charges of possessing stimulants in violation of the Stimulants Control Law. The three have owned up to the offense.

Police believe Saeki frequently purchased stimulants from Iranian dealers in Japan. An Iranian man has been arrested in connection with this case, the sources said.

On Sunday, some 30 locations, including Kobayashi’s campaign office in the city of Seto, Aichi Prefecture, were searched.

Police said they had launched a probe targeting Kobayashi based on a tip received in March.

The arrests were embarrassing for the DPJ especially after the party suffered a big loss in the Sept. 11 general election, where its strength in the Lower House was carved down to 113 from 177.

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