HIROSHIMA – A secretary of Upper House lawmaker Anri Kawai, who is the wife of a former justice minister, has admitted knowing that payments made to campaign staff during last year’s Upper House election were illegal, sources close to the matter said Sunday.
The election campaign office of Kawai, who won a seat for the Liberal Democratic Party in July’s House of Councilors election, is suspected of covering up payments to staff that were double the amount permitted under the election law.
The state-paid aide has told Hiroshima prosecutors during voluntary questioning that he was involved in providing daily allowances totaling ¥30,000 to a group of “election warblers,” which refers to women who are driven around in small vans to tout their candidates over loudspeakers, according to the sources.
On Wednesday, prosecutors searched the offices of the lawmaker and her husband, Katsuyuki Kawai, a Lower House member of the LDP, as well as the home of the secretary, who was in charge of coordinating plans for staff members during the election campaign.
The campaign office is suspected of making two receipts to be signed by the workers to appear as if the payments were under the legal cap of ¥15,000 per day.
Hiring skilled campaign staff for the election was seen as important because the LDP, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sought to win both of Hiroshima Prefecture’s closely contested seats for the first time in 21 years.
The prosecutors are investigating whether the lawmaker and the former justice minister, who was active in recruiting the campaign staff, were involved in deciding the payment amounts.
The secretary used to be an aide to Katsuyuki Kawai, who resigned as justice minister in October after a weekly magazine first reported the allegation. After the election, he became an official secretary of Kawai’s wife, who is in her first term as a lawmaker.
Some of the campaign staffers have already admitted to receiving a ¥30,000 allowance during voluntarily interrogation by prosecutors, investigative sources said earlier.
The Kawais have denied any intention to resign as lawmakers or members of the LDP.