Arrest of Lawmaker Ikeda: Uncover Full Picture of Factions’ Systematic Wrongdoings

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has arrested an Abe faction lawmaker over a political fundraising party scandal involving Liberal Democratic Party factions. The flow of money must be clarified, and the full picture of the wrongdoings must be revealed.

House of Representatives lawmaker Yoshitaka Ikeda, a member of Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, also known as the Abe faction, and his policy secretary were arrested on suspicion of falsely reporting political income and expenditures, in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

Ikeda is suspected of having failed to record in his political organization’s political funds reports a total of about ¥48 million in party income that the faction gave him as kickbacks from 2018 to 2022.

The faction is alleged to have given its members part of the revenue from the faction’s fundraising parties, and the money is believed to have been left out of the faction’s and recipients’ reports. It is suspected that the amount of kickbacks totals ¥500 million over the most recent five-year period.

Among the faction members, Ikeda received a particularly large amount of kickbacks. Why was this necessary? What was the money used for? A thorough investigation is essential.

Ikeda has been elected four times and served as senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology. After the allegations came to light, he corrected his political group’s reports for the reason that donations from the faction had not been included, but never personally explained the facts of the matter.

Such handling is rampant among politicians. It is wrong to think that a failure to fully and properly fill out political funds reports is simply a procedural error and all that is required is a correction. This is contrary to the principle of the law, which is to ensure the transparency of political funds.

Regarding the funds provided by the faction, Ikeda’s office responded in writing to media queries in December, saying, “We understood that the money was for expenses for political activities and it was paid by the party through the faction.” Several lawmakers reportedly gave the same kind of explanation to the prosecutors’ squad.

Their argument may be that if the money was cash for political activities expenses received by individual Diet members from the party, it does not need to be included in reports. However, the claim that the cash kickbacks from the faction are money from the party would be far-fetched by any standard.

The Abe faction is believed to have used this scheme for many years to make income from parties into hidden funds. The Nikai faction, known as Shisuikai, is also suspected of underreporting more than ¥100 million in party income in its political funds reports over the five-year period.

The factions had likely been spearheading the false accounting practices for many years. The investigation must also determine the responsibility of the factions and strictly deal with the matter.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that he will establish an organization within the LDP to study ways to prevent a recurrence and to make political funds more transparent. He ought to be aware that the repeated occurrences of the issue of politics and money have drawn more severe scrutiny from the public than ever before.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 8, 2024)