National / Crime & Legal

Prosecutors in Japan used GPS data to track ex-justice minister

Jiji

Prosecutors have used GPS data from former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai’s smartphone to trace his movements in relation to allegations over his wife Anri’s House of Councillors election campaign last summer, sources have said.

The Kawais are suspected of having distributed cash to local politicians in Hiroshima Prefecture in connection with Anri’s campaign for election to the Diet’s Upper House in July 2019. The GPS data was used to identify the dates, times and locations during which Katsuyuki, 57, a member of the House of Representatives, allegedly distributed the cash, the sources said.

Most of the cash is thought to have been given out by Katsuyuki, and Anri, 46, herself is also suspected of handing out some of the money. Anri won her first parliamentary seat in the Upper House vote, running from the Hiroshima prefectural constituency.

Prosecutors are in the final stages of their investigations as they aim to pursue the lawmaker couple’s criminal liability for alleged vote-buying in violation of the Public Offices Election Law, after the ongoing regular session of the Diet ends on Wednesday.

According to a former member of Hiroshima Municipal Assembly, who was questioned by prosecutors about a meeting with Katsuyuki prior to the Upper House election, prosecutors said that they had detailed information on the time and place of the meeting.

Specifically, the prosecutors said Katsuyuki’s smartphone location information showed that he had stayed at the former city assembly member’s office for about 20 minutes, according to the former member. The prosecutors questioned the former assembly member regarding the purpose of the meeting and whether any money was handed out.

Prosecutors seized the Kawais’ smartphones in March this year during a raid of a Tokyo hotel where the couple were staying.

In mid-March, they questioned members of the Hiroshima prefectural and Hiroshima city assemblies, and staff members of Anri’s election campaign, and asked them to voluntarily hand over their smartphones.

The prosecutors are believed to be using the GPS data from the smartphones of the Kawais and the questioned local assembly members to check the times and locations of the suspected money distribution.

According to multiple Hiroshima prefectural assembly members, Katsuyuki visited the offices and homes of local political figures around the time of the unified local elections in April last year and handed over envelopes containing ¥200,000 to ¥300,000 in cash.

The money is thought to have been offered as tokens of support during campaigns for the April elections or gifts to celebrate victories in the polls. However, prosecutors suspect that Katsuyuki asked the cash recipients to shore up votes for his wife in the July 2019 Upper House election.

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