Court severely criticizes Yoshikawa’s lack of awareness of responsibility

For a top government official to accept cash from an interested party is outrageous. It must be said that he is unaware of the weight of his job responsibilities and lacks any sense of standards.

The Tokyo District Court has sentenced former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa to two years and six months in prison, suspended for four years, for accepting a total of ¥5 million in cash bribes from the former head of a major egg company during his 2018-19 tenure as minister.

The court deemed that Yoshikawa received cash from the egg magnate in return for the ministry announcing its opposition to proposed animal welfare guidelines formulated by an international organization.

In its decision, the court said that Yoshikawa “seriously undermined public confidence in the fairness of the administration of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the duties of the national government.”

Some of the bribes were given to Yoshikawa in the minister’s office. Moreover, he used the money for living expenses and gatherings, so he didn’t return the full amount received. No wonder the court ruled that the crime was committed out of greed.

The former egg company head has already been found guilty of bribery after admitting in a separate trial that the cash offered was a bribe, and that ruling has been finalized. In contrast, Yoshikawa denied the charges and pleaded not guilty, saying that he had accepted the cash as a political donation.

The court condemned this plea, saying that it was far removed from common sense. In addition to the ¥5 million bribe, Yoshikawa also received a total of ¥13 million from the egg magnate before he became the minister and after he left the post.

All of the money was “secret funds” that were not listed in political fund balance reports. Issues of politics and money have rocked society many times. It must be said that Yoshikawa totally lacked a sense of alarm about these circumstances.

When asked at the trial why he did not include the information in the report, Yoshikawa explained that the egg magnate had also provided cash to other politicians and he was concerned that including the information would affect other politicians and the magnate. This is a statement that disrespects the transparency of political funds.

Yoshikawa was not arrested in consideration of the fact that he was hospitalized for heart surgery at the time of the investigation. Since then, he has not fulfilled his responsibility to explain the receipt of cash to his constituents.

There has been no end to the scandals in the ruling bloc. A prison sentence has been finalized for former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who handed out cash mainly to local politicians in the previous upper house election. Former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara was also fined for election violations.

There is a tendency that even when scandals occur, neither the person at the center of the issue nor their political party explains the situation. As the ruling bloc has remained secure in its position for a long time, some carelessness may have set in. Politicians must deeply reflect on the fact that their lack of discipline has led to distrust in politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2022)