• Kyodo

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After over two months of silence, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife, Upper House lawmaker Anri Kawai, denied any intention to resign after prosecutors searched their offices in Hiroshima on Wednesday over alleged campaign violations in her election.

Katsuyuki Kawai, 56, and Anri Kawai, 46, are suspected of having paid 13 female campaign announcers a daily allowance of ¥30,000, double the amount permitted by law, during the House of Councilors election campaign in July in which she won a seat.

The two lawmakers separately told reporters Wednesday night that they will not resign either as lawmakers or as members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

They said they are fully cooperating with the prosecutors’ probes but declined to comment on the allegations while the criminal investigations are taking place.

“Even though I would like to give my explanation, the matter is being investigated as a criminal case and I should refrain from commenting on it,” said the former justice minister, who has not appeared in public for over two months.

University professors and local voters have filed criminal complaints against the couple, while prosecutors have already started questioning those involved in the election campaign, the sources said.

The office of Anri Kawai allegedly split the payments over two receipts to conceal the offense, sources said.

Investigators suspect the campaign office made separate receipts to be signed by the campaign workers to make it appear the payments were under the legal cap, they said.

The payments may be considered bribery of campaign members in violation of the election law, they said, adding that investigators will look into who instructed that the payments be made via separate receipts.

Some of the campaign staffers have admitted to receiving the ¥30,000 allowance under voluntarily questioning by prosecutors, according to the sources.

Following the search, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference that the couple “need to be held accountable for their own actions.”

Kawai resigned as justice minister in October after the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported the allegation online. Soon after the scandal came to light, Anri Kawai submitted to the Liberal Democratic Party a medical certificate stating she was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and needs to rest for one month.

In another potential matter, a man who said he helped in Anri Kawai’s election campaign said that a local LDP branch she headed paid him ¥860,000 for his role seeking support for her from local assembly members and voters.

The election law bans election offices from rewarding such work.

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