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Japan mayor tenders resignation over receiving cash from ex-minister in bribery scandal

Mayor Shinji Kosaka of the Hiroshima Prefecture town of Akiota, in western Japan, is pictured here in this file photo taken on Sept. 26, 2016. (Mainichi/Satoko Takeshita)

AKIOTA, Hiroshima -- The 71-year-old mayor of this town in western Japan tendered his resignation to the chairman of the town assembly on April 7 after revealing several days earlier that he had received money from former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai ahead of a 2019 election in which the latter's wife won a spot in the House of Councillors.

"It was cash that I should not have taken. I took too lenient an attitude toward myself," Mayor Shinji Kosaka told the Mainichi Shimbun.

At an all-assembly meeting convened on April 7, the mayor explained how he received the money from Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a member of the House of Representatives who heads the Hiroshima Prefecture No. 3 constituency before the July 2019 upper house election in which Kawai's wife, Anri Kawai, 46, from the Hiroshima constituency, won for the first time. Both Kawais belong to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

According to Kosaka, he was visited at home by the former justice minister around April 2019, shortly after Anri secured LDP backing in the upcoming election, and was given a white envelope. In the Hiroshima constituency, the LDP was aiming to win the two open seats for the first time in 21 years, and was officially backing both the incumbent -- who ultimately lost -- and newcomer Anri. Katsuyuki spoke to Kosaka about the election, and said that if the LDP could win enough of the conservative votes, they could be shared and lead to the victory of the two LDP-backed candidates.

Kosaka refused to accept the envelope, but after some quarrelling, he accepted it. He didn't confirm the contents of the envelope at the time, but did so after the Hiroshima Public Prosecutors Office indicted Anri's aides in March 2020 over vote-buying scandals, while there were other reports on vote-buying allegations by Anri's campaign. After finding that there was 200,000 yen in the envelope, Kosaka processed the money as a donation to his own political organization.

The town of Akiota is within Katsuyuki's constituency. Mayor Kosaka served as deputy mayor before being elected as mayor in 2008. He marked his third election to the mayoral seat in 2016.

(Japanese original by Kazuki Ikeda, Hiroshima Bureau)

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