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A three-year prison term for former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai for buying votes for his wife in the 2019 Upper House election is set to be finalized as he intends to drop his appeal in the high-profile case, a source familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Katsuyuki Kawai, former justice minister, was been sentenced to a three-year prison term after Tokyo District Court found him guilty of buying votes for his wife in the 2019 Upper House election. | KYODO
Katsuyuki Kawai, former justice minister, was been sentenced to a three-year prison term after Tokyo District Court found him guilty of buying votes for his wife in the 2019 Upper House election. | KYODO

Kawai, who has resigned as a lawmaker, will likely become the first former Cabinet member in over 10 years to be subject to a finalized prison term. In its ruling in June this year, which found Kawai had handed out a total of ¥28.7 million to buy votes, the Tokyo District Court also ordered a forfeiture of ¥1.3 million.

The court ruled that Kawai handed the sum to 100 local assembly members and supporters in his wife Anri’s constituency in Hiroshima Prefecture, and said it was “an extremely malicious crime that significantly undermined fair elections, the foundation of democracy.”

Kawai, who was a member of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, pleaded not guilty in his first hearing in August last year. But he admitted to most of the charges in March and sought a suspended sentence.

His defense appealed on June 18, the day the ruling was given, saying that it was “utterly unacceptable,” but Kawai’s side apparently concluded that it would be difficult to overturn the ruling in an appeal trial.

The ruling did not touch on the unusually large sum of ¥150 million that the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters provided to Anri Kawai’s camp ahead of the 2019 House of Councilors election, amid suspicion that the money was used by Kawai to buy votes.

While the LDP denied any such use of the money last month, based on corrected political funds reports the Kawais submitted, opposition parties are seeking a reinvestigation as the country heads into a general election at the end of this month.

Anri Kawai, 48, who won a seat in the 2019 election, was sentenced in January this year by the Tokyo District Court to 16 months in prison, suspended for five years, for also distributing money to local legislators in Hiroshima Prefecture. The ruling in her case was finalized in February.

In July, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office dropped a bribery case against 100 individuals including local assembly members who allegedly received cash from Kawai.

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