Another Prosecutor Suspected of Inducing Testimony in Vote-Buying Trial

Another prosecutor involved in a vote-buying trial is suspected of repeatedly urging a former municipal assembly member to testify that he had accepted a bribe from a former justice minister, according to audio recordings obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, 60, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2021 over vote buying in connection with his wife’s campaign in the 2019 House of Councillors election. The ruling was finalized in that year.

The testimony of the former Hiroshima municipal assembly member, Tsuneyasu Kido, 67, was allegedly induced during voluntary questioning with one prosecutor, as reported by The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday, and during pretrial witness interviews conducted by another prosecutor, according to the audio recordings.

The Yomiuri Shimbun has obtained more than 10 hours of audio recordings of exchanges between Kido and the prosecutors.

During voluntary questioning, a prosecutor from the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office accused Kido of receiving ¥300,000 in cash from Kawai in April 2019 when he was running as a candidate in the municipal assembly election. Kido reportedly said in response, “I received something, but I was not aware that it was money or a bribe [for the upper house election].”

However, after the prosecutor hinted at the possibility of waiving his indictment, Kido signed a written statement acknowledging that he had accepted a bribe.

Kawai’s trial began at the Tokyo District Court in August 2020. Kido appeared as a witness on the side of the prosecution on Jan. 20, 2021. At that time, Kawai pleaded not guilty.

Another prosecutor from the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office conducted 12 pretrial witness interviews with Kido from September 2020 to just before his appearance in the witness box.

In audio recordings of these interviews, Kido claimed he was not aware that the money he received from Kawai was a bribe, even though he had signed a written statement in voluntary questioning acknowledging that he had accepted a bribe.

The prosecutor repeatedly asked Kido to testify in court in line with the written statement, saying it would be better for him to clearly state that the money was for vote-buying purposes, and eventually Kido capitulated.

The audio recordings also revealed that the prosecutor and Kido rehearsed his witness examination ahead of the trial in an exchange of questions and answers. The prosecutor evaluated Kido’s response, saying things such as, “The words are no good” and “That’s OK.”

The prosecutor also appeared to urge Kido to keep quiet about the rehearsal.

In the end, Kido testified that he was aware that the ¥300,000 he received from Kawai was a bribe and that it was naive to think there would be no problem if the money was registered as an “encouragement gift” during his election campaign.

“The prosecutor induced the testimony of the witness,” Manabu Yamazaki, a former judge at the Tokyo High Court, told The Yomiuri Shimbun. “It must be said that the prosecutor made a mockery of the trial process.”

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office is aware of the details revealed in the audio recordings and intends to investigate the matter. In response to The Yomiuri Shimbun’s report, it issued a comment on Friday saying it would deal appropriately with the problem.