Photo/IllutrationAnri Kawai, an Upper House lawmaker, apologizes to her supporters over the vote-buying scandal in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 15. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

An aide to Upper House lawmaker Anri Kawai has admitted that campaign staff members were paid twice the statutory limit during her campaign last year and that he was aware that doing so was illegal, investigative sources said.

Investigators at the Hiroshima District Public Prosecutors Office questioned the aide, a man in his 50s, on a voluntary basis on Jan. 17-18 over allegations of violating the Public Offices Election Law in the Upper House election in July.

Investigators on Jan. 15 searched his home along with offices and the residence of Kawai and her husband, Katsuyuki, who is a Lower House member from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a Hiroshima electoral district.

Kawai won a seat in the Upper House in July as a politician from the LDP in the Hiroshima prefectural constituency.

Katsuyuki stepped down as justice minister in October when her suspected breach of the law was first reported by a weekly magazine that month.

Her 13 campaign staff members who rode in campaign cars to call on the public to vote for the candidate were paid 30,000 yen ($272) a day despite the statutory daily ceiling of 15,000 yen.

According to the sources, the aide told investigators that he was aware of the limit and paid 30,000 yen apiece to the 13 campaign staff members.

The 13 people also have admitted to receiving payments exceeding the legal threshold when investigators questioned them on a voluntary basis, according to the sources.

In Kawai’s campaign report submitted to the Hiroshima prefectural election administration committee, there are entries stating the 13 campaign staff members were paid 15,000 yen a day, with the receipts.

But the sources said her camp also prepared receipts allowing staff members to receive other payments under separate entries and on different days.

The aide formerly served as a publicly funded secretary from 2017 to 2018 for Katsuyuki.

The man became involved in Kawai’s election campaign in the Upper House election, deciding the routes her campaign cars should travel.

He became Kawai’s publicly funded aide after she won a seat in the Upper House.