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Japan town mayor admits receiving cash from ex-minister in vote-buying scandal

Shinji Kosaka, mayor of the town of Akiota, Hiroshima Prefecture, answers reporters' questions in this photo taken in the town on April 2, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Ikeda)

AKIOTA, Hiroshima -- The mayor of this western Japan town revealed on April 2 that he had accepted 200,000 yen from former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai ahead of the July 2019 House of Councillors election, in which Kawai's wife was elected to the upper chamber for the first time.

Mayor Shinji Kosaka, 71, told reporters in the town of Akiota that he received the cash from Kawai before the upper house poll was officially announced. Kawai's wife Anri won the election after running on the ticket of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to which the ex-justice minister also belongs.

It had earlier emerged that the Kawais had handed cash to several members of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly. The Hiroshima District Public Prosecutors Office is reportedly questioning individuals concerned on a voluntary basis over whether the cash provision was aimed at asking the recipients to organize votes for Anri. Kosaka, however, did not disclose whether he was questioned by prosecutors or not.

According to the mayor, Katsuyuki Kawai visited him at his home in around April 2019, shortly after Anri Kawai secured official LDP backing for her candidacy in the election. Katsuyuki reportedly told Kosaka, "If conservative votes are shared in the upper house election, the two (LDP) candidates will win," and put a white envelope on a table. Thinking it might contain cash, Kosaka refused to accept it, but ended up receiving the item after a quarrel and kept it at his home.

After allegations that Anri's camp was engaged in vote-buying emerged, the mayor opened the envelope on around March 28 this year and found 200,000 yen inside. Kosaka listed the money as a donation to his political group in a political funding report, and delivered a receipt to the mailbox of Katsuyuki's local office. The receipt was addressed to the LDP's Hiroshima Prefecture No. 3 constituency chapter headed by Katsuyuki.

"I regret receiving the cash that I was not supposed to accept. But I don't think it was illegal," Kosaka said.

The town of Akiota is part of Katsuyuki's local constituency. In the 2019 upper house contest, the LDP aimed to win the two seats up for grabs in the Hiroshima constituency for the first time in 21 years, and fielded Anri, a first-timer, along with incumbent Kensei Mizote. Mizote lost the election.

(Japanese original by Kazuki Ikeda, Hiroshima Bureau)

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