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2 ex-aides of Japan LDP legislator investigated over alleged foreign exchange violations

Liberal Democratic Party legislator Tsukasa Akimoto (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Prosecutors have raided the homes of two former secretaries to ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) legislator Tsukasa Akimoto over allegations that the pair brought cash into Japan from overseas without notifying relevant authorities, those linked to law enforcement authorities said.

The special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is also apparently questioning the two ex-aides to Akimoto, a former state minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, over the case on a voluntary basis.

The search warrants accuse the pair -- a former state-paid policy aide and a former private secretary to Akimoto -- of violating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, which requires those who bring cash worth over 1 million yen into Japan to notify customs. The search began on Dec. 7 and continued until the predawn hours of the following morning, according to the sources. The special investigation unit is poised to clarify the flow of money.

According to the sources and a corporate registry, the former policy secretary to Akimoto set up a company in Tokyo to train show business entertainers in 2011 when Akimoto did not occupy a seat in the legislature after losing in an election. The ex-aide headed the company until 2017. The former private secretary to Akimoto subsequently took over the leadership of the firm. Akimoto served as an adviser to the company at one point.

In the early 2000s, the former policy secretary and Akimoto served as secretaries to then lower chamber member Koki Kobayashi. The ex-policy aide was subsequently appointed as a state-paid secretary to Akimoto sometime around 2008 and was later named as policy secretary around 2016. The policy secretary, who stepped down sometime around autumn 2018 for health reasons, was called Akimoto's right-hand man.

Akimoto, 48, was first elected to the Diet in 2004 when he won the House of Councillors election by garnering the second largest number of votes of all candidates in the proportional representation bloc. He was defeated in a 2010 upper house race, but made a comeback to the political world by winning a lower house election through the proportional representation system in 2012. He was elected to a third term as a lower house member in an October 2017 general election. Akimoto served as state minister at the Environment Ministry and the Cabinet Office. He is now vice chairman of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee.

The legislator denied any wrongdoing before a pool of reporters on Dec. 9. "I haven't been able to confirm if the raids were conducted. The company to which I had served as an adviser was never involved in any suspicious cash flows," Akimoto said.

He also denied having been involved in any other misconduct, adding that he last met the former policy secretary sometime around this past summer.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Toyama, Kim Suyeong and Kazuya Shimura, City News Department)

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