• Politics & Government

Abe Faction Suspected of Keeping ¥100 mil. Off the Books; Revenue From Party Ticket Sales ‘Underreported’

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Abe faction coordinator Ryu Shionoya speaks to reporters on Aug. 31 in Tokyo.

Revenue from the sale of tickets to fundraising parties is suspected of having been mishandled by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s largest faction, sources close to an investigation of the political fund issue said.

Each faction member is allocated a quota for ticket sales, and the faction is suspected of returning to the members the amount of revenue that exceeded the quota.

The sources said that faction members who received the returned funds failed to list the money in their political funds report as required by law, thereby acquiring the money as off-the-book funds.

The largest faction, the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, was formerly led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is known as the Abe faction.

The sources said that the undocumented funds amount to tens of millions of yen per year, possibly exceeding ¥100 million in total over a recent five-year period.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad is investigating the case with a view to bringing a charge of violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

According to the sources, fundraisers held annually by the political factions are the factions’ largest source of income, and the faction members have a quota to sell party tickets to individuals, companies and industry groups. Quotas are set depending on the number of times a member has been elected and their experience as cabinet ministers, among other factors.

Sources said that the Abe faction held fundraising parties once a year from 2018 to 2022, and the political funds reports for these five years showed a total income of about ¥660 million.

However, the faction is said to have routinely operated in such a way that the portion of income from party tickets sold by each faction member in excess of his or her quota was returned to the faction member’s side.

It is suspected that the returned income was not listed in the faction’s political funds reports, nor was it listed in political funds reports submitted by the political organizations of each faction member.

The special investigation squad has obtained information on the management of the faction’s funds through interviews conducted on a voluntary basis with persons involved with the faction. The squad is also expected to bring in additional prosecutors to help investigate the case.

Regarding the return of the funds, the Abe faction’s coordinator Ryu Shionoya said on Thursday that he thought there was a practice of returning part of the funds to faction members. Later on the day, Shionoya said he would like to withdraw his previous comment, saying, “I have not confirmed relevant facts.”

Also in connection with the political funds scandal, a criminal complaint has been submitted on suspicion that political organizations of the LDP’s five factions, including the Abe faction, understated their income from fundraising parties in their political funds reports.

The five factions’ persons in charge of accounting and others are suspected of failing to list income from selling party tickets to industry groups and other organizations and underreporting income by a total of about ¥40 million on their political funds reports for the years from 2018 to 2021.

Of this amount, the total alleged understatement by the Abe faction was estimated to be about ¥19 million.

The penalty for failure to properly state the information in the political funds report is imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to ¥1 million.