TOKYO - Former Japanese Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai was sentenced Friday to 3 years in prison and a fine of 1.3 million yen ($12,000) for vote buying aimed at securing a seat for his wife in the 2019 upper house election.
Prosecutors had sought a 4-year prison term and the forfeiture of 1.5 million yen during the 58-year-old former House of Representatives lawmaker's trial at the Tokyo District Court, arguing his crimes were "an unprecedented, extremely vicious violation of the Public Offices Election Law."
The defense in its closing argument asked for a suspended sentence on the grounds that Kawai had admitted to most of the charges and resigned as a lawmaker.
According to the indictment, Kawai handed out a total of about 29 million yen to 100 local politicians and supporters in return for securing votes for his wife in the House of Councillors election in July 2019.
Kawai asserted his innocence at the beginning of the trial last August but reversed course and pleaded guilty later, telling a court hearing in March, "I cannot deny that I desired to get my wife elected." He admitted that the cash he gave out to 90 individuals was for vote buying and resigned as a lawmaker.
The LDP headquarters had approved his wife Anri Kawai as an additional candidate in the Hiroshima constituency with the aim of winning 2 seats, but the move was not backed by the prefectural party chapter. The prosecution cited the difficult situation as a motive for Kawai's actions.
The court in January sentenced Anri Kawai to 16 months in prison, suspended for 5 years, for conspiring with her husband and handing out 1.6 million yen in total to 4 Hiroshima prefectural assembly members between March and May in 2019.
Anri Kawai resigned as an upper house member in February.
The LDP headquarters provided 150 million yen, an unusually large sum, to Anri Kawai's camp, ahead of the 2019 upper house election. Katsuyuki Kawai has denied that the money was used for vote buying.
Anri Kawai's election campaign was supported by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, now prime minister, and other senior LDP lawmakers.