HIROSHIMA – Diet member Anri Kawai is suspected of giving cash to voters in Hiroshima during her successful campaign for the 2019 Upper House election last July, sources familiar with the situation said Saturday.
The 46-year-old wife of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, known for his close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made her Diet debut by winning the election. Both are members of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The couple, suspected of buying votes, may have handed out over ¥20 million ($182,000) to around 100 people in connection with the campaign, the sources said.
Some supporters of the couple, including local assembly members, have already confessed to Kyodo News that the 57-year-old former justice minister offered from ¥50,000 to over ¥100,000 to each person. In some cases, the candidate herself dispensed cash to local voters, the sources said.
Prosecutors, who have been investigating the scandal for months, are seeking to charge the former minister and possibly his wife for breaking the Public Offices Election Law after the Diet closes for the summer on June 17. Lawmakers have special immunity from arrest while the Diet is in session.
The two denied the allegations during voluntary questioning by the Hiroshima District Public Prosecutor’s Office, according to investigative sources.
In March, secretaries of the couple were charged with bribery for paying ¥2.04 million to 14 campaign staffers for their work on the election, exceeding the legal cap of ¥15,000 per person per day.
The prosecutors have been investigating whether the alleged bribe money may have come from some ¥150 million the LDP gave to Anri’s campaign.
Katsuyuki Kawai was special adviser for foreign affairs to Abe before being named justice minister last September. He stepped down from the post the following month after the election scandal broke.
The prosecutors have found that Katsuyuki Kawai orchestrated the campaign for his wife, investigative sources said earlier.
In the Upper House election, the LDP battled for two seats in the Hiroshima constituency by backing Anri Kawai and veteran lawmaker Kensei Mizote. But Mizote lost his seat because the conservative voters were divided.