National / Crime & Legal

Ex-justice chief's former aide denies Japan fraud charges in Anri Kawai election scandal

JIJI

A former policy secretary to ex-Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai denied Friday that he broke the election law by paying the campaign staffers of Anri Kawai, the ex-minister’s wife, during the House of Councilors election last July.

In the first hearing of his trial at Hiroshima District Court, Shinsuke Takaya, 43, denied playing any part in the over-the-limit payments scandal.

“I’ve never been involved in a decision on how much (the workers) should get or in the payment processes,” Takaya said.

Anri Kawai, who belongs to the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party, made her Diet debut by winning a seat in the upper chamber in the July 21 election, running from Hiroshima Prefecture.

Katsuyuki Kawai, an LDP member in the House of Representatives, resigned as justice minister last autumn after his wife’s campaign scandal broke.

According to the indictment, Takaya violated the public offices election law by conspiring with people including Hiroshi Tatemichi, 54, a state-paid secretary to Anri Kawai, to pay a daily amount exceeding the legal limit of ¥15,000 per person to 14 campaign staffers working for her between around July 19 and 23 last year. Total payments reached ¥2.04 million.

In their opening statement on Friday, public prosecutors argued that Takaya, who was policy secretary to Katsuyuki Kawai at the time, had been based in the city of Hiroshima from mid-April last year.

Taking the post of assistant to the head of Anri’s campaign office, he dealt with the media and gave instructions to the staff at the headquarters, the prosecutors said.

During the process of deciding how much to pay the workers in question, Takaya told Tatemichi and others that the figure would be ¥30,000 a day, and the information on that amount was then passed over to members of her campaign staff by Tatemichi, the prosecutors claimed.

Tatemichi, who was indicted on the same charges, is expected to get a quick sentence under the guilt-by-association system. Takaya is not covered by this.

Anri Kawai would lose her Upper House seat if Tatemichi receives imprisonment or a heavier sentence and is recognized as subject to the guilt-by-association system in an administrative lawsuit to be filed by the Hiroshima High Public Prosecutor’s Office after the ruling becomes final.

The Hiroshima District Public Prosecutor’s Office has sought a prison term of 18 months for Tatemichi.

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