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Former egg company exec investigated over alleged bribes to ex-Japan farm minister

Takamori Yoshikawa is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Tatsuro Tamaki)

TOKYO -- A former representative of a major egg producing group in western Japan has told those around him that he gave several million yen in cash to a former minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, according to sources connected to the case.

    The ex-representative of Akita Foods Co. group, which is based in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, has reportedly admitted to most of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office special investigation squad's accusations involving money provided to Takamori Yoshikawa, 70, a member of the House of Representatives from the Hokkaido No. 2 constituency and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member.

    The investigation squad is now interviewing people related to the case and others, and it appears that they are proceeding with understanding the events and circumstances behind the matter.

    The former representative is a special adviser for the Japan Poultry Association, and has previously petitioned the national government and Diet members repeatedly regarding the "poultry egg producer management stability measures project" to fill the gap when trading prices of eggs fall from the base price, and on requirements concerning animal welfare to allow farm animals to be raised in stress-free settings.

    It appears that the former representative was also lobbying Yoshikawa, and it is possible that the money was provided with the intention of asking him to promote measures to benefit the poultry egg industry.

    According to an individual connected to the case, prosecutors in July searched locations including the company and the home of accounting personnel in connection with a large-scale vote-buying scandal involving former Minister of Justice and current House of Representatives member Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, and his wife, House of Councillors member Anri Kawai, 47, who are accused of breaking the Public Offices Election Act during the 2019 upper house election. During those searches, a number of documents indicating that the former Akita Foods representative had given money to several Diet members including Yoshikawa were reportedly found.

    In a voluntary interview with the prosecutors office's special investigation squad, the former representative reportedly admitted to having handed over cash to Yoshikawa on multiple occasions. Yoshikawa served as minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries between October 2018 and September 2019, and the ex-representative is reported to have made comments to the effect that the money was also conveyed while Yoshikawa was in office.

    Yoshikawa served as a secretary to a lower house member and as a member of the Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly before his first election to the lower house in 1996. He is currently serving his sixth term. In the September 2020 LDP presidential election, he was chief secretary of the campaign for Yoshihide Suga, the eventual winner and now prime minister.

    Akita Foods was established in 1966. Along with its Hiroshima headquarters, it also has bases in Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi and other areas across Japan. The company is known for its "Kiyora" brand of eggs.

    (Japanese original by Kazuya Shimura, Yujiro Futamura and Ai Kunimoto, City News Department)

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