Prosecutor Suspected of Purposely Obscuring Bribery Denial

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Nameplate of the Prosecutor’s Office in Tokyo.

A prosecutor suspected of inducing testimony from a then Hiroshima city assembly member is now thought to have intentionally failed to film the assembly member denying receipt of a bribe during voluntary questioning, based on audio recordings obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The audiovisual recordings were made after the city assembly member signed a written statement acknowledging that he had accepted a bribe from a former justice minister, and the prosecutor is believed to have sought to exclude content that contradicted this statement.

Former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, 60, was sentenced to three years in prison over vote-buying tied to his wife’s campaign in the 2019 upper house election in violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

According to the audio recordings, a prosecutor from the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office suggested to Tsuneyasu Kido, the then Hiroshima city assembly member, that he would not be indicted and had him sign the statement admitting that he received a bribe.

Once the statement from Kido, 67, was completed during interrogation on April 27, 2020, the prosecutor explained to Kido that he would “use a camera to capture the main points [of the interrogation],” according to audio recordings. Kido told the prosecutor, “Please let me continue to serve as a city assembly member.” The prosecutor replied, “That’s what the statement is for, and that’s what the camera will be for.”

He added: “At least it [the video recording] will serve as material for us to make decisions, so you should admit everything and show that you intend to contest nothing.”

However, just before filming, the prosecutor asked Kido if he was aware that the cash was meant to secure his support for the election. Kido replied, “I was in such a hurry that I did not have time to think about anything.” The prosecutor then told Kido: “If you are saying that you didn’t have the election in mind when you received it [the money], I’m not going to ask you about that part. Otherwise, it would be interpreted as a denial.”

The prosecutor then told Kido to “just answer the questions you are being asked” and began filming. Kido then discussed the circumstances under which he received the cash from Kawai. The prosecutor did not ask whether he was aware the cash was for vote-buying purposes, but did prompt him with, “As it is written in the statement, right?” to which Kido replied, “Yes.” At the end of the interrogation, Kido was recorded saying, “I’d like to continue to work hard for the community, hopefully as a city assembly member, and I ask for your continued support.” The video recording lasted about nine minutes.

In voluntary interrogations, complete audiovisual recordings are not mandatory. However, there are cases in which investigative authorities take video recordings of “reviews” during questioning to prove the voluntary nature of statements made and use the footage at trial.

“It is clear that the prosecutor only filmed parts that were convenient for him, and that he arbitrarily used some of the audiovisual recordings,” said lawyer Yasushi Handa, a former chief judge of the Fukuoka High Court. “The case highlights the danger of judging the appropriateness of an interrogation based only on part of the recordings.”