• Kyodo


Tokyo prosecutors decided Wednesday not to indict former Justice Minister Midori Matsushima and Yoshimi Watanabe, the former head of the now-defunct Your Party, for allegedly violating election law and other laws.

The prosecutors dropped the case against Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Matsushima, who resigned as justice minister after facing a criminal complaint in October over the distribution of paper fans to constituents, which could count as a donation banned under the election law.

While it was deemed that the distribution of paper fans was a donation, prosecutors judged it was not subject to punishment as it was not aimed at winning a seat in an election, considering the timing of the distribution.

Matsushima retained her seat in last month’s Lower House election.

Watanabe, a 62-year-old veteran of the political arena who lost his Diet seat in the Dec. 14 snap general election, had faced a criminal complaint after failing to record in his political group’s funds report the money he had borrowed from the chairman of a cosmetics company.

Prosecutors have concluded there is insufficient evidence to indict Watanabe over the borrowed money.

According to a Your Party in-house probe, Watanabe borrowed ¥300 million before the 2010 House of Councilors election and ¥500 million prior to the 2012 House of Representatives election from Yoshiaki Yoshida, the chairman of DHC Corp.

The complaint filed by civic group members said Watanabe borrowed ¥500 million as political funds in November 2012, but only ¥250 million was allegedly registered as such, in violation of the political funds control law.

Watanabe had denied the allegations, arguing portions of the loans not reported as political funds were used to “collect information for expanding the party’s strength” and other purposes and did not violate any law.

After the probe, Your Party also said in April that the loans were not used for Watanabe’s election campaign and denied that he violated the public offices election law or political funds control law.

In a separate incident, the prosecutors did say it was illegal for Watanabe not to record the ¥170 million he had borrowed in 2010 and 2013 from a bank account linked to his political group. But they decided not to build a case against him, judging that he himself was not involved in the relevant accounting procedure.

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