Japan PM Abe's justice minister quits over poll fraud scandal

Katsuyuki Kawai is the second member of prime minister's cabinet to leave in a week over election-related controversy.

    Kawai, a member of parliament from Hiroshima, has denied any wrongdoing [Issei Kato/Reuters]
    Kawai, a member of parliament from Hiroshima, has denied any wrongdoing [Issei Kato/Reuters]

    Japan's justice minister has resigned over election fraud allegations involving his wife, also a legislator, and about his own gift-giving allegations reported in a tabloid magazine.

    Katsuyuki Kawai submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe early on Thursday, becoming the second minister of Abe's Cabinet to resign in one week over election-related scandals.

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    Kawai was appointed the justice minister last month.

    Isshu Sugawara resigned as the trade minister last Friday over allegations that he and his aides offered money and gifts to his supporters in violation of election laws.

    The Weekly Bunshun reported that Kawai's wife, Anri, allegedly paid her staff allowances exceeding legal limits.

    Kawai, a member of parliament from Hiroshima, denied any wrongdoing but said stepping down was the best decision under the circumstances.

    "Neither my wife nor I were aware of the issue, and I believe I've been carrying out political activities in line with laws," he said.

    "I will investigate the issue and explain, but in the meantime, public trust in the justice administration will be lost," he said.

    Separately, Abe offered an apology in remarks to reporters for having appointed Kawai during a recent reshuffle that also brought Sugawara into the government.

    Masako Mori, who was formerly the minister in charge of addressing the issue of low birthrate will replace Kawai as the new justice minister, Abe said.

    Abe's cabinet has maintained public approval ratings of between 40 and 50 percent in recent years, despite several political scandals, with experts pointing to the continued weakness of the opposition as a key factor.

    SOURCE: News agencies