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Four-year jail sentence sought for former justice minister

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Prosecutors on Friday asked for a four-year prison sentence for former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who was charged with buying votes to secure a seat for his wife in an election to the House of Councilors. 2019.

In seeking the jail term and the confiscation of 1.5 million yen during his trial in Tokyo District Court, prosecutors said the former House of Representatives lawmaker, 58, had “the ultimate responsibility for the election ”of his wife Anri Kawai and“ managed all activities related ”to his wife’s electoral victory.

“It was an unprecedented massive voice buy,” they said.

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According to the indictment, Kawai handed a total of around 29 million yen to 100 local politicians and supporters in exchange for securing votes for his wife in the House of Councilors election in July 2019. .

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Kawai asserted his innocence at the start of the trial but reversed course and pleaded guilty later, saying at a hearing in March: “I can’t deny that I wanted my wife elected.” He admitted that the money he gave 90 people was for vote buying and resigned as lawmaker.

Regarding the cash distributions to others that Kawai had denied was vote buy, prosecutors said his claim was false because some recipients admitted they were meant to buy their votes.

Before prosecutors’ statement, Kawai’s defense attorney said Kawai donated 7 million yen to a foundation out of his own salary.

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In February, 94 out of 100 people who allegedly received money from Kawai said they understood the money was intended to buy votes.

The trial is expected to end after defense attorney’s final argument scheduled for May 18, with a decision likely to be rendered as early as June.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Anri Kawai, 47, to 16 months in prison, suspended for five years, in January this year for conspiring with her husband to buy votes. Anri Kawai resigned as a member of the Upper House in February.

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Appointed Minister of Justice in September 2019, Katsuyuki Kawai resigned just over a month later after the weekly Shukan Bunshun reported possible violations of electoral law during his wife’s campaign.

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The Kawais were arrested in June 2020. Both left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party shortly before their arrest.

The LDP headquarters provided 150 million yen, an unusually large sum, to the Kawai camp ahead of the 2019 upper house poll.

Anri’s election campaign was supported by then-chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, now prime minister, and other prominent LDP politicians.

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