• Kyodo

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Three aides working for ruling party lawmakers Anri Kawai and her husband Katsuyuki Kawai were arrested Tuesday over alleged illegal payments made to campaign staff during last year’s Upper House election, prosecutors said.

The authorities detained Hiroshi Tatemichi, a secretary to Anri Kawai, and one of her campaign staffers, Yugo Waki, as well as Shinsuke Takaya, a secretary to Katsuyuki Kawai.

The three are suspected of paying a combined ¥2.04 million to 14 campaign staff members between July 19 and 23 last year during the election in Hiroshima. The payments exceeded the legal cap of daily allowances for such workers in violation of the public office election law.

Prosecutors from Anri Kawai’s Hiroshima constituency also searched her office as well as that of her husband, a former justice minister, in buildings linked to Diet members in Tokyo. Both are sitting members of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The former justice minister is said to have orchestrated Anri Kawai’s election campaign in her Hiroshima constituency, taking an active role in securing staff.

As the election scandal emerged, Kawai resigned as justice minister in late October, less than two months after he was appointed to the post in a Cabinet reshuffle. He has said that he and his wife were not involved in the alleged payments.

Anri Kawai could lose her seat in the Diet if one of the three is found to have breached the regulation holding a candidate jointly responsible for election law violations committed by his or her campaign manager.

Anri Kawai, 46, won a seat in the House of Councilors for the first time in last July’s election. Her 56-year-old husband is a veteran House of Representatives lawmaker in a constituency in Hiroshima Prefecture.

According to the sources, Tatemichi coordinated plans for staff members during the election campaign. He became a state-paid secretary of Anri after the election.

Tatemichi has told prosecutors during voluntary questioning that he was involved in providing daily allowance payments of ¥30,000 to “election warblers,” as people who are driven around in small vans touting their candidates over loudspeakers are known, the sources said.

The payment is double the legal cap of ¥15,000 per day for such workers in election campaigns.

The campaign office is suspected of having issued two receipts to be signed by the workers so as to create the appearance that the payments were under ¥15,000 per day.

The couple have kept quiet regarding details of the case and ruled out quitting the LDP or stepping down as lawmakers.

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