Former Japan Vice Justice Minister Mito Kakizawa Arrested Over Vote-Buying (Update 1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The buiing that houses Kakizawa’s residence is seen in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 14.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mito Kakizawa

Mito Kakizawa, a House of Representatives member and former vice justice minister, was arrested Thursday by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Law.

A policy secretary, a government-paid first secretary and two private secretaries were also arrested on the day. Kakizawa and the secretaries are suspected of providing cash to local councilors in Koto Ward, Tokyo, to ensure the election of now former ward Mayor Yayoi Kimura in the April mayoral election.

The case involving Kimura has now led to the arrest of a sitting national legislator based in the same ward.

According to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and other sources, Kakizawa conspired around February with his four secretaries to provide a total of ¥1 million to five people, including ward councilors, to secure Kimura’s victory. They also allegedly offered a total of ¥600,000 to three other people, including ward councilors.

Around March, Kakizawa is said to have provided ¥200,000 to election campaign staff, and about ¥800,000 from July to October to a former councilor involved in the election campaign, bringing the total suspected bribes to about ¥2 million.

Kakizawa is also suspected of conspiring with Kimura to spend about ¥380,000 to run illegal paid internet ads calling for votes for Kimura during the election period.

Additionally, the policy secretary is suspected of providing ¥200,000 to election campaign staff around April.

One of the private secretaries allegedly distributed about ¥560,000 to Kimura’s campaign staff from January to May.

During voluntary questioning by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Kakizawa admitted to providing cash to the councilors and others. However, he denied it was for vote-buying and said it was a gesture of support for councilor election candidates. Regarding the internet ads, he claimed he did not think they were illegal.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office searched Kimura’s home and the ward mayor’s office in October, and Kakizawa’s local office and the secretaries’ homes in November. On Dec. 14, they searched his parliamentary office and his home in the ward.

Kakizawa became vice justice minister in September but resigned in October to take responsibility for proposing the illegal internet ads to Kimura, and left the Liberal Democratic Party this month.

Kakizawa first won a seat in the House of Representatives in the 2009 general election, representing Your Party. In the 2021 general election, he was elected for the fifth time from Tokyo’s 15th district, which includes Koto Ward, and was endorsed by the Liberal Democratic Party.