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Apparent payoff list erased from PC of Japan lawmaker accused in vote-buying scheme

This combined photo shows lawmaker Anri Kawai, right, and her husband and former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai. (Mainichi)

HIROSHIMA -- A payoff list and other data were erased from the computer of ex-justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who was arrested on June 18 along with his wife and lawmaker Anri Kawai on suspicion of conspiracy and vote-buying in connection with her 2019 election campaign, investigative sources told the Mainichi Shimbun.

According to the sources, digital forensic investigators recovered the erased data on Katsuyuki's computer, including a list of cash payoffs to figures including Hiroshima Prefectural and other local assembly members, as well as those linked to the political support organization of 46-year-old Anri, who successfully campaigned last year for a seat in the House of Councillors.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigations unit apparently began interviews with over 100 people named in the list in late March this year, and obtained evidence for payouts totaling about 25.7 million yen (about $240,000) to 94 people. Investigators suspect Katsuyuki, 57, erased the files to hide the evidence.

The probe into the lawmaker couple was launched after two of their publicly financed secretaries were indicted earlier this year on suspicion of providing illegal payments to canvassers working for Anri's campaign. Katsuyuki's computer was seized in searches of the couple's home and political offices.

The data including the payout list were apparently deleted sometime in or after October 2019, when a weekly magazine first published the canvasser payoff allegations.

(Japanese original by Isamu Gari, Akihiro Nakajima and Akari Terouchi, Hiroshima Bureau)

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