LDP lower house member Tokuda's home, office in Kagoshima searched

Japanese prosecutors on Friday searched the home and office in the city of Kagoshima of House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda of the governing Liberal Democratic Party on suspicion of illegal campaigning in December's general election.

Tokuda, 42, a third-term lower house member, is the son of Torao Tokuda, 75, founder of one of the country's biggest hospital chains, named the Tokushukai Group, which allegedly involved more than 200 hospital employees in supporting Tokuda's election campaign through paid work.

Investigators from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office also searched locations in Tokyo connected with Tokuda's relatives.

The Tokushukai Group, which operates more than 60 hospitals and some 280 medical facilities across the country, used many employees in similar election campaigns when Tokuda's father Torao was a lower house member between 1990 and 1996 and between 2000 and 2005, group sources said.

The practice continued when Tokuda ran as successor in his father's constituency in 2005 and was reelected in 2009, the sources said.

Tokuda may have known about such election practices as he served as an official secretary to his father between 2002 and 2005, the investigative sources said.

His father Torao, a native of Tokunoshima Island off Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, is currently in hospital in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, just southwest of Tokyo.

The Public Offices Election Law bans election candidates from making payments to voters and campaigners.