Police arrested four people on May 19 in a mass counterfeiting scandal stemming from a petition to recall Governor Aichi Hideaki Omura.
Aichi Prefecture police arrested Takahiro Tanaka and three others suspected of violating local self-government law by forging the names of residents in a campaign to oust the governor. The law even prohibits signing petitions on behalf of family members who may be temporarily absent.
Tanaka, 59, a former member of the Aichi prefectural assembly, headed the secretariat responsible for collecting signatures for the recall. Police also arrested Tanaka’s wife Naomi, 58, her second son, Masato, 28, and Michiyo Watanabe, 54, who worked in the secretariat.
According to Aichi Prefecture Police, the four are believed to have conspired to forge signatures by hiring part-time workers to forge the names of Aichi voters.
Tanaka told The Asahi Shimbun before his arrest that he was concerned about the slow pace with which signatures were being collected. He said he asked an advertising agency in Nagoya to help him collect signatures.
The recall attempt began in August 2020 by Katsuya Takasu, a cosmetic surgeon well known for denying the Holocaust and the Nanjing Massacre, and others unhappy with Omura’s handling of the 2019 Aichi Triennale International Art Festival.
Controversy surrounded the Aichi Triennale even before it opened on August 1, 2019.
His exhibition “After freedom of expression?” Featured a sculpture meant to symbolize the “comfort women,” who were forced to provide sex to Japanese military personnel before and during World War II.
A video presentation on display showed scenes of burning portraits, including that of Emperor Showa, the posthumous name of Emperor Hirohito, who reigned from 1926 to 1989.
Protests and threats of terrorist acts led to the exhibition being suspended after just three days.
Takasu set a goal of collecting 1 million signatures, but the campaign was only able to submit around 435,000.
In February, the Aichi Prefecture Election Administration Commission invalidated about 83 percent of the names signed because they were suspected of being false. The Aichi Prefectural Police began investigating the same month and seized all documents containing the suspicious signatures.
Omura told reporters on May 19 that he wanted the whole plan to be dismantled because it was a “scandalous act that sought to destroy Japanese democracy.”
Omura accused Takasu and the mayor of Nagoya, Takashi Kawamura, of orchestrating the mass tampering, and said he was “incredibly shameful that they are trying to escape by placing all the blame on Tanaka”.
Kawamura and Takasu claimed they were completely innocent when they spoke to reporters separately on May 19.
Kawamura said he was confident the police investigation would show he was not involved in any way. He added that he had never been able to supervise what Tanaka was doing.
Takasu has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the fakes, but said he was responsible for the recall campaign because he led the effort.