Discord behind Japan's election scandal

Discord behind Japan's election scandal
Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office investigators confiscate materials from the Tokushukai group’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

TOKYO - Discord between members of the Tokuda family and a senior official of the nation's leading medical corporation is believed to be behind the recent exposure of electioneering fraud involving the Tokushukai group, one of the largest hospital groups in the country.

Six people, including two daughters of Torao Tokuda, the group's 75-year-old founder and a former House of Representatives member, were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of conspiring to provide monetary benefits to campaign staff, in violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has since launched investigations into Torao, who is currently hospitalized, without placing him under arrest. Torao allegedly gave orders to the six in the electioneering scheme.

"Since falling ill, [former] chairman [Tokuda] wouldn't listen to anyone but his family members. He's no longer the man I once revered," said a 57-year-old former secretary general of the Tokushukai group, explaining why he blew the whistle on the election fraud during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 5.

The former secretary general, "who knows the Tokushukai group like the back of his hand," joined as a clerical worker in 1979. He was enchanted by Tokuda, who spoke eloquently during a briefing session for jobseekers about his goal to "build hospitals around the world."

After joining the group, he served as a chauffeur and a secretary for Torao over 25 years and was eventually promoted to secretary general, effectively the No. 2 post in the group.

He first lodged an accusation against Tokushukai shortly after the lower house election in December. With 83 pages of documents in hand, he met with a prosecutor of the prosecutors office. The election fraud was among many suspected matters involving Tokushukai contained in the documents.

After the complaint was lodged, it was revealed that during the lower house election campaign period last December, Tokushukai sent hospital workers from across the country, in the guise of volunteers, to the Kagoshima Prefecture constituency of Takeshi Tokuda, Torao's 42-year-old son, and provided monetary benefits to the campaign staff.

The revelation of the scandal by Torao's right-hand man certainly caught the attention of officials at the special investigation squad of the prosecutors office.

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