National / Crime & Legal

Backers of ex-Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai grilled over 2019 Upper House election scandal

Kyodo

Local supporters of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai have been questioned by prosecutors on suspicion they received cash from him in connection with last summer’s Upper House election, which saw his wife, Anri Kawai, win a seat, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.

Members of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly affiliated with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party were among those subjected to the voluntary questioning.

On Tuesday, Hiroshi Tatemichi, 54, a state-paid secretary of Anri Kawai, and Shinsuke Takaya, 43, a policy secretary to Katsuyuki Kawai, were indicted over unlawful rewards paid to campaign staff during the 2019 House of Councilors election.

The two were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of paying daily allowances totaling ¥2.04 million to 14 campaign staffers in July last year, exceeding the legal cap of ¥15,000 per person per day.

Before the campaign started, the LDP’s headquarters transferred ¥150 million to Anri Kawai’s campaign team and the prosecutors have been investigating how the money was used for the election, according to the sources.

Katsuyuki Kawai previously served as a special adviser to the prime minister before being named justice minister last year.

The Lower House lawmaker is said to have orchestrated the election campaign in the Hiroshima constituency, taking an active role in securing staff.

Anri Kawai could lose her Diet seat if Tatemichi is found to have breached the regulation holding candidates jointly responsible for election law violations committed by their campaign managers.

The prosecutors have requested that the Hiroshima District Court end Tatemichi’s trial in 100 days, based on a provision that calls for the swift completion of procedures involving certain election law violations.

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