Former justice minister Kawai admits vote buying

Former Japanese justice minister Kawai Katsuyuki has reversed his plea of not guilty and admitted to distributing cash to help his wife win an Upper House seat in 2019. He also expressed intent to resign as a Lower House member.

Kawai and his wife and former Upper House member Kawai Anri were accused of bribing local politicians in Hiroshima Prefecture before an Upper House election.

He had pleaded not guilty of vote buying in hearings at the Tokyo District Court.

But at the start of a court questioning session on Tuesday, Kawai said he does not fully deny the vote-buying charge, and that he cannot say he had no intention to win his wife an Upper House seat.

Kawai explained why he changed his plea, speaking slowly and in a calm manner. He said he caused trouble to many people, and came to think he should admit what he had to admit, to take responsibility as a politician for his supporters.

He also said he deeply regrets that he harmed public trust in national elections.

Asked by his lawyer what he thought about resigning from the Diet, Kawai was silent for about 15 seconds and said he decided to resign as a Lower House member.

Kawai denied conspiring with his wife, and insisted that providing cash to some of her campaign staff did not constitute vote buying.

Kawai Anri resigned from the Upper House after being found guilty in January.