Former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his lawmaker wife, Anri Kawai, were indicted Wednesday on charges of violating the election law by buying votes in Anri Kawai’s election campaign last summer.
Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a House of Representative member, and Anri Kawai, 46, a member of the House of Councilors, were arrested in June, on suspicion of handing out millions of yen in cash to politicians and supporters in Hiroshima Prefecture in return for their efforts to secure votes in the Upper House poll held in July 2019.
If the Kawais are found guilty and the rulings are finalized, they will lose their Diet seats.
Katsuyuki Kawai, known for his close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was arrested on June 18 on suspicion of giving ¥25.7 million ($240,000) to 94 local politicians and supporters between March and August last year.
Anri Kawai was arrested the same day on suspicion of conspiring with her husband on ¥1.7 million of the cash handouts to five of the politicians.
Katsuyuki Kawai has admitted to distributing cash but denied he intended to buy votes, while Anri Kawai has said she has no recollection of her involvement in illegal activities, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors have seized documents from the Kawais’ home that they believe list cash distributions of around ¥30 million in total.
The two are likely to receive their court rulings within 100 days of their indictment. For trials involving election-related crimes, the Public Offices Election Law urges courts to deliver rulings swiftly, typically within 100 days.
If Katsuyuki Kawai is found guilty of the charges in his role as manager of his wife’s campaign, Anri Kawai’s victory in the Hiroshima district in the Upper House vote will be annulled irrespective of whether or not she was involved.
The two, who resigned from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over the scandal, are now facing calls from some party members to explain how they spent ¥150 million given to them by the party ahead of the Upper House election.
Some local politicians who have admitted receiving cash have resigned from their posts. Prosecutors have decided not to charge them as they did not solicit the money, according to the sources.