Tokyo prosecutors raided the offices of former farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa on Friday over allegations that he received a total of ¥5 million from an egg production company in western Japan while in office.
Prosecutors searched his offices in Tokyo and Sapporo and confiscated documents. Yoshikawa, who resigned as a lawmaker earlier this week citing health reasons, has admitted to receiving cash during voluntary questioning, according to sources close to the matter.
The allegations against the 70-year-old politician, who served under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, are expected to hurt public support for Suga’s government, whose approval ratings have recently plummeted over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yoshikawa, who is currently hospitalized for treatment of arrhythmia, is suspected of receiving cash on three occasions from an 87-year-old former representative of Akita Foods Co. in Hiroshima Prefecture when he was agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister between October 2018 and September 2019, according to the sources.
The former representative, whose name has not yet been revealed, requested Yoshikawa and the farm ministry oppose international animal welfare guidelines. They were later modified.
He has admitted to people around him that he offered cash to Yoshikawa to seek favors for the egg farming industry. Yoshikawa has denied the money was a bribe, the sources said.
Koya Nishikawa, another former farm minister, stepped down as a special adviser to the Cabinet earlier this month following the revelation that he went on a boating trip hosted by the same egg production company.
Nishikawa is also believed to have received several million ¥ from the firm, according to the sources. Prosecutors have already questioned him.
The scandal came to light after prosecutors discovered documents during a search of Akita Foods in July in connection with alleged vote-buying by former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his lawmaker wife Anri, both elected from Hiroshima Prefecture, during her House of Councillors election campaign last year.
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