HIROSHIMA – A secretary of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Anri Kawai admitted to bribing campaigners during the Upper House election last July during his second court hearing Tuesday.
Hiroshi Tatemichi, a state-paid secretary of Kawai, did not enter a plea during his first hearing at the Hiroshima District Court on April 20 in connection with the campaign payment scandal that could possibly cost Kawai, the wife of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, her seat.
“It is true that I gave (campaigners) illegal rewards,” Tatemichi told the court.
His defense team said he only played a supportive role and was not involved in deciding on the amount to be paid to the campaigners.
Anri Kawai, 46, separately told reporters she was not aware that illegal payments were made.
Tatemichi, 54, was indicted in late March for allegedly paying on 14 occasions a total of around ¥2.04 million ($19,000) to 14 staff members who campaigned for Anri Kawai between July 19 and 23 last year, exceeding the daily legal cap of ¥15,000 per person.
Prosecutors have recognized Tatemichi as Kawai’s campaign manager and asked the court to swiftly complete his trial within 100 days, a procedure applicable to election law violations in Japan.
The penalty for unlawful payments to campaign staff is a jail term of up to three years, with or without labor, or a maximum fine of ¥500,000.
Kawai could lose her seat in the Hiroshima constituency if Tatemichi is found guilty and given a jail term, and the prosecutors’ request for the application of guilt by association to the election law is endorsed by a court.
Under such conditions, she would also be barred from running for election to the Upper House in the same district for five years.
During the first court hearing, the prosecutors said Tatemichi came up with stumping schedules as the campaign manager, and Kawai and her husband, who allegedly led the campaign, endorsed them.
Shinsuke Takaya, a state-paid secretary of Katsuyuki Kawai, has also been indicted on the same charge as Tatemichi, but will be tried separately.