National / Crime & Legal

Arrested ex-Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai admits cash handout but denies vote-buying

Kyodo

Arrested former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai has admitted to handing out cash to local lawmakers and supporters but denied any intention to buy votes for his wife’s election campaign last summer, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.

Kawai, 57, known for having had close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his lawmaker wife Anri, 46, were arrested last Thursday on suspicion of giving ¥25.7 million ($240,000) in cash to 94 local politicians and supporters to reward them for their efforts to secure votes for her in the House of Councilors election last July.

The sources also said lists used to record about 100 cash payment recipients are believed to have been made by Shinsuke Takaya, 44, a former close aide of Katsuyuki Kawai. Takaya is currently on trial for bribing election campaigners.

The lists were confiscated by Hiroshima prosecutors from the couple’s home in January. Of the 94 people who allegedly received cash, around 40 were Hiroshima prefectural assembly members and other local politicians, according to the sources.

The prosecutors have found Katsuyuki Kawai led the election campaign on behalf of his wife and decided recipients of cash handouts, according to the sources. The Kawais have denied the allegations.

Takaya primarily worked at Katsuyuki Kawai’s office in Tokyo as a state-paid secretary, but quit after being indicted in March for paying on 14 occasions a total of around ¥2.04 million to 14 campaign staff of Anri Kawai between July 19 and 23 last year, exceeding the daily legal cap of ¥15,000 per person.

During Anri Kawai’s election campaign in the Hiroshima constituency, Takaya was in charge of media relations and helping aides of Abe, who visited the district to make a speech in support of her. She secured a seat in the race.

Katsuyuki Kawai, a House of Representatives member, served as Abe’s special adviser for foreign affairs and briefly assumed the post of justice minister after the Upper House election.

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