HIROSHIMA – Close aides to former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife, Anri Kawai, both ruling party lawmakers, were indicted Tuesday over unlawful rewards paid to Anri Kawai’s campaign staff during the Upper House election last summer, raising the possibility she will lose her parliamentary seat.
Indicted were Hiroshi Tatemichi, 54, a state-paid secretary to Anri Kawai, who was elected to the House of Councilors last July, and Shinsuke Takaya, 43, a policy secretary of Katsuyuki Kawai.
If Tatemichi, deemed by the prosecutors as Anri Kawai’s campaign manager, is convicted, the lawmaker will be held jointly responsible for the election law violation, and could lose the seat she secured in the Hiroshima constituency on the ticket of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
She will also be barred from running for election to the Upper House in the same district for five years.
“I offer my sincere apology. I have yet to grasp the details of the investigations and would like to closely follow the course of the criminal trial,” Anri Kawai said in a statement she released after the indictments.
The Hiroshima prosecutors suspect illegal payments were also made to others on Anri Kawai’s campaign staff. They are also said to be considering whether they can build a case against her husband.
The prosecutors are seeking the Hiroshima District Court’s approval of a procedure, applicable to certain election law violations, to end the trial of the two secretaries in 100 days.
The two were arrested earlier this month for allegedly paying daily allowances totaling ¥2.04 million ($18,400) to 14 campaign staffers between last July 19 to 23, exceeding the daily legal cap of ¥15,000 per person.
Sources close to the matter have said Tatemichi admitted to the allegation but denied the Kawais were involved in the payments.
Prosecutors have searched the offices of the couple and questioned them on a voluntary basis.