• Kyodo

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Prosecutors said Tuesday they have issued a summary indictment against former trade minister Isshu Sugawara for sending money and flower gifts in his constituency in violation of Japan’s election law.

The case had been dropped once before. But the latest move followed a decision by a civil inquest body that Sugawara’s alleged actions merited indictment, dealing the latest blow to the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which is already under fire for a recent series of similar scandals.

According to the indictment, Sugawara, 59, donated a total of ¥530,000 ($4,800) as condolence and congratulatory money and spent ¥270,000 on flowers given to 33 organizations and 26 people in his constituency in Tokyo between 2018 and 2019.

With the indictment, a summary court could fine Sugawara. If such an order is finalized, he will face a suspension of his civil rights for up to five years, during which he will not be able to run in any election.

In June last year, prosecutors decided not to indict Sugawara after taking into account that he had stepped down as minister of economy, trade and industry in October 2019 and apologized for the matter.

But the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution decided in February that an indictment was merited, saying, “It is natural to assume that (the money and flowers) were sent with future elections in mind. Due consideration should also be given to the public’s desire for lawmakers to be clean.”

Sugawara stepped down as a House of Representatives member last Thursday after leaving the ruling Liberal Democratic Party the previous day.

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