• Politics & Government

Japan’s LDP Abe Faction Kickbacks Probe to Look Into Secretaries General After Questioning Accounting Officials

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Tokyo

Prosecutors have questioned an accounting official of late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political faction, who said a part of the revenue from fundraising parties returned to lawmakers was reported to the faction’s secretary general, sources said.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office suspects that the proceeds returned to Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers were not recorded in the faction’s political funds report.

The squad is investigating the case with an eye on questioning present and past secretaries general of the Abe faction, the largest in the LDP, to confirm whether they were involved in the alleged misconduct based on violations of the Political Funds Control Law.

At least 10 lawmakers belonging to the Abe faction are suspected of having received kickbacks to pool a part of the income raised from fundraising parties as off-the-books funds.

A full-scale investigation to build a case is expected to start as soon as Dec. 13, the last day of the extraordinary Diet session. The squad is considering questioning dozens of LDP lawmakers.

According to the sources, some lawmakers belonging to the Abe faction are suspected of having received kickbacks from the faction for proceeds in excess of quotas for their fundraising party ticket sales. Some also pooled the money, with the aggregate total above ¥100 million over a five-year period spanning 2018-2022. The statute of limitations for the Political Funds Control Law is five years, so 2018 is the earliest time in question.

The accounting and other administrative officials of Abe’s faction explained to the special investigation squad during voluntary questioning that they reported about the kickbacks to the secretary general, who is in charge of practical affairs. They also said that they did not record a portion of the revenue from fundraising parties in the relevant political funds report, according to the sources.

Secretaries general in the Abe faction since 2018 are former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. The current secretary general is Tsuyoshi Takagi, chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, who took the post in August 2022.

The Political Funds Control Law obliges an official responsible for accounting to record revenue and expenditures in the political funds report and submit it to the internal affairs and telecommunications minister or prefectural election administration commissions.

A secretary general may be charged with conspiracy if he or she instructed an accounting official not to record revenue in the political funds report or approved the report after having been informed that revenue was not recorded in the report.

The special investigation squad also questioned secretaries of the Diet members who are suspected of having pooled the off-the-books funds. Some lawmakers pooled more than ¥10 million over the five-year period in question. The squad is believed to have confirmed the circumstances surrounding the underreporting of the political funds report.

In addition to the Abe faction, the LDP faction led by longtime heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai is also suspected of having failed to record the amount in excess of its party sales quota as income on its political funds report. This off-the-books amount is also believed to have surpassed ¥100 million.