• Kyodo

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A former justice minister arrested for alleged vote-buying in connection with his lawmaker wife’s election last year made what appeared to be an attempt to use cash to secure votes for himself in an election nearly 15 years ago, a former assembly member has said.

Katsuyuki Kawai visited the then assembly member’s office before a House of Representatives election in September 2005 and tried to give him an envelope, saying, “You will help me in many ways,” according to the man, who was a member of the assembly of one of the cities within Kawai’s constituency in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The former assemblyman said he refused to take the envelope but believed it contained cash, adding that Kawai, who went on to be successful in the election, was alone when he made the visit.

Taking offense at the offer, the man then cut ties with the 57-year-old Kawai, who is known for having had close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The former local politician told Kyodo News the relationship had remained severed ever since.

Kawai, a seventh-term Lower House member first elected in the Hiroshima No. 3 district in 1996, was arrested along with his wife Anri last week on suspicion of giving ¥25.7 million ($241,000) in cash to 94 local politicians and supporters, as rewards for their efforts to secure votes for her in the House of Councillors election last July.

The recipients included a former chairman of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly, Nobuya Okuhara, who admitted when he met the press on Wednesday to having received ¥2 million. The amount is presumed to be the highest allegedly paid by Kawai as a reward.

Kawai’s actions before the 2005 election could be a violation of the Public Offices Election Law, but the three-year statute of limitations for vote-buying allegations has already expired.

A different city assembly member in the prefecture has alleged been given around ¥100,000 annually by Kawai without the issuance of a receipt as is required by the political funds control law.

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