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Ex-Japan farm minister convicted for receiving bribery from egg producer

This file photo shows Takamori Yoshikawa, former minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. (Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Japanese farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa was sentenced Thursday to two years and six months in prison, suspended for four years, for receiving bribes from an egg production company while in office.

    The Tokyo District Court ruled that Yoshikawa received a total of 5 million yen ($39,000) from the then head of Akita Foods Co. between November 2018 and August 2019 when he was farm minister while being aware of the company head's intention to seek favors.

    Presiding Judge Katsuko Mukai criticized Yoshikawa's act as "very malicious, as he adversely affected the fairness of the administration of agriculture, forestry and fisheries as a minister."

    The ruling, which also ordered him to pay the state an amount equivalent to the money he had received, found Yoshikawa, 71, received the cash from Yoshiki Akita, 88, at places including the minister's office. It said Yoshikawa was aware that Akita hoped to receive favorable treatment for the egg industry in regard to animal welfare standards.

    Recognizing all of the cash Yoshikawa received as bribes, the judge said he was "aware of the possibility that the money given to him included expectations and intentions regarding his duties as farm minister."

    Prosecutors had sought two years and six months in prison and the payment of 5 million yen to the state, arguing that the former minister was aware that he was receiving bribes as he failed to include the money in his political funds report.

    Yoshikawa, who stepped down as a lawmaker in December 2020 citing health problems, had admitted to receiving the cash but pleaded not guilty, claiming he had accepted the money as "support for his political activities," according to his defense team.

    The judge criticized the former minister for "lacking remorse for his actions as a lawmaker," calling his assertion that the money was a political donation "irrational and far removed from common sense."

    In handing down the suspended sentence, the judge said the money was not solicited and the court did not find that policy decisions had been influenced.

    After the ruling, Yoshikawa said in a statement, "It is truly regrettable that my assertion was not accepted. I'd like to respond appropriately after examining the ruling."

    Akita was found guilty last October at the Tokyo District Court, which sentenced him to 20 months in prison, suspended for four years, for bribing Yoshikawa, who was appointed as agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister in October 2018. The sentence has been finalized.

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