THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
January 12, 2021 at 15:23 JST
Prosecutors search the office of former agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa in Sapporo on Dec. 25. (Kengo Hiyoshi)
Tokyo prosecutors will soon indict a former agriculture minister on a bribery charge over 5 million yen ($48,000) he received from a major egg producing company, sources said.
Takamori Yoshikawa, 70, will be indicted without arrest or being taken into custody because he underwent a heart operation at the end of 2020 and has since been in a hospital, the sources said.
Prosecutors suspect Yoshikawa received a total 18 million yen over the past six years from a former top executive of Akita Foods Co., a Hiroshima Prefecture-based egg producer.
The charge will cover 5 million yen, which Yoshikawa received while he served in the Cabinet of Shinzo Abe.
The former company executive, now 87, is also expected to be indicted without arrest on a bribery charge.
Yoshikawa, who belongs to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, resigned as a Lower House member on Dec. 22, citing a chronic heart condition.
Investigators searched his offices in Tokyo and Sapporo on Dec. 25.
Of the 5 million yen, Yoshikawa received 2 million yen on Nov. 21, 2018, at a hotel in Tokyo. He also received 2 million yen at the minister’s office on March 26, 2019, the sources said.
On both occasions, the former executive asked Yoshikawa to ensure the Japanese government would oppose an international organization’s proposal for animal welfare standards to reduce the stress of livestock, the sources said.
The former executive also gave Yoshikawa 1 million yen at the minister’s office on Aug. 2, 2019, asking him to make it easier for poultry farmers to receive loans from the government-related Japan Finance Corp, according to the sources.
During voluntary questioning by prosecutors, Yoshikawa admitted to receiving the money but told investigators he planned to return the funds.
The former executive told prosecutors that he “gave the money and it was for the industry.”
Prosecutors are focusing on the 5 million yen because it was apparently given to buy Yoshikawa’s power as farm minister.
But prosecutors will not pursue bribery charges for the other payments because they were made when Yoshikawa did not hold a major government position or wield administrative authority, the sources said.
He is believed to have received a total of 11 million yen over nine times between 2015 and 2018, before he became farm minister, and 2 million yen over two times in 2019 and 2020, after he left the Cabinet.
Prosecutors also suspect that Akita Foods bought about 3 million yen worth of tickets for a fund-raising party for Yoshikawa, but reports were falsified to make it appear that multiple individuals bought the tickets, a possible violation of the Political Fund Control Law.
The former executive told prosecutors he also handed about 15 million yen to Koya Nishikawa, 78, another former farm minister, over the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020.
Prosecutors believe the former executive threw around a lot of money to LDP lawmakers who specialized in policies related to the farm industry. They have studied his disbursement reports and appointment books.
Prosecutors searched Akita Foods’ offices in July as part of an investigation into a vote-buying scandal that led to the arrests of former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, and his lawmaker wife, Anri, 47.
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