21 January 2021
Former Japanese farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa was indicted on 15 January 2021, without arrest on bribery charges. He was accused of receiving $48,000 from an egg production company, Akita Foods Co. while he was agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister between November 2018 and August 2019, the prosecutors said. He served in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.
The prosecutors charged Yoshiki Akita, an 87-year-old former representative of Akita Foods Co. for paying the bribe. The authorities did not take both men into custody because of their age and health concern. The were also not seen as a flight risk. Yoshikawa underwent a heart operation at the end of 2020 and has since been in a hospital.
Yoshikawa resigned from being a Lower House member on 22 December 21, citing a chronic heart condition. He left also the ruling Liberal Democratic Party led by Suga.
Yoshikawa has admitted to receiving cash but said that he took it as an inaugural celebration contribution.
Yoshiki Akita paid the bribe on two occasions, once at a hotel in Tokyo and on another occasion at the minister’s office. On both occasions he requested the minister 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. He also requested him to make it easier for poultry farmers to receive loans from the government-related Japan Finance Corp. Yoshiki Akita told the prosecutors that he paid the bribe on behalf of the poultry industry and not on behalf of the company he worked for.
Akita is also suspected of offering another $124,800 to Yoshikawa at a time when the latter was not holding any government position or wield any administrative authority. Therefor the authorities are not prosecuting this case.
It is believed that Yoshikawa received a total of 11 million yen over nine times between 2015 and 2018, before he became farm minister, and $28,800 over two times in 2019 and 2020, after he left the Cabinet. Prosecutors also suspect that Akita Foods bought about $28,800 worth of tickets for a fund-raising party for Yoshikawa, but records were falsified to make it appear that multiple individuals bought the tickets, to avoid the Political Fund Control Law.
Akita also told the prosecutors that he gave $144,000 to Koya Nishikawa, 78, another former farm minister, over the seven-year period from 2014 to 2020. This came to light when the authorities raided the office of Akita Foods. Nishikawa stepped down as a special adviser to the Cabinet earlier this month after it was found that he went on a boating trip hosted by Akita Foods.
Akita Foods was also involved in vote-buying by former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his lawmaker wife Anri. Both were later arrested by public prosecutors on June 19, 2020 on charges for vote-buying and distributing around $240,000 to 100 prefecture and city assembly members in Hiroshima.
Sources: Asahi Shimbun, kyodonews (English), Japan Times