• Crime & Courts

34 indicted for allegedly receiving cash from Japan’s ex-Justice minister

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Katsuyuki Kawai

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japanese prosecutors on Monday indicted 34 people for allegedly receiving cash from former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai in a high-profile vote-buying scandal over the 2019 House of Councillors election.

According to the indictments, the 34 received a total of around ¥20.1 million from Kawai, 59, and his wife, Anri, 48, a former House of Councillors lawmaker, in March-August 2019. The cash was aimed at gathering votes for her in the Upper House election.

Over the scandal, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office initially decided in July last year not to indict the 34, mainly local politicians in the western prefecture of Hiroshima, and others suspected of receiving cash from the couple.

The indictment came, however, after a prosecution inquest panel in December reversed the initial decision by the prosecutors.

Of the 34, nine were indicted without arrest and 25 faced summary indictments seeking fines. They include a then head of a municipality, 11 who were Hiroshima prefectural assembly members at the time and 17 who were assembly members of municipalities in the same prefecture.

If handed down a fine or more severe punishment, the suspects will have their civil rights suspended for five years in principle, with those in public office losing their positions.

Of the 25 people facing summary indictments, 21 were in public office, but all have either completed their terms, resigned or offered to resign.

Meanwhile, the nine indicted without arrest include prefectural assembly members and will lose their jobs if found guilty at court. They are believed to be denying guilt.

Last July, prosecutors chose not to indict 99 people who were suspected of receiving cash, judging that they were in passive positions and that Kawai’s side forcibly gave them cash.

In December, the prosecution inquest panel concluded that 35 of them deserved indictment and that 46 others should be investigated again.

On Monday, prosecutors indicted 34 of the 35 people while forgoing indictment against the other one of them, who was unable to face questioning due to ill health, and the 46 people.