3 LDP Lawmakers ‘Received Over ¥10 mil. in Hidden Funds;’ Abe Faction Leadership Drawing Prosecutors’ Attention

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

Two more senior lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have emerged as suspected recipients of off-the-books kickbacks taken from political party fundraising revenue, it has been learned.

In addition to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Tsuyoshi Takagi, 67, chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, and Hiroshige Seko, 61, the party’s secretary general in the House of Councillors, are both suspected of having received more than ¥10 million in total in such hidden funds over the five-year period from 2018 through 2022, but failing to state in their political funds reports.

Takagi has been the Abe faction’s secretary general in charge of practical affairs since August 2022. The faction, formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is the largest in the LDP.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is looking into questioning Matsuno, Takagi and Seko over the matter.

More than 10 lawmakers from the Abe faction are suspected of receiving funds in the amount by which they exceeded their assigned quotas for selling tickets to fundraising parties, and both the faction and the lawmakers failed to list the money in their political fund reports, according to sources.

In addition to these three lawmakers, there are other senior faction members who also failed to list the kickback funds in their political fund reports, although the amount was not as large, according to sources.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
Tsuyoshi Takagi, Hiroshige Seko and Yasutoshi Nishimura

Economy minister implicated

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura is suspected of receiving several hundred thousand yen in off-the-books kickbacks and failing to include the amount in his political funds reports, sources have said.

Nishimura is a past secretary general of the faction, becoming the third current or former holder of that post, after Matsuno and Takagi, to be suspected of receiving kickbacks in the latest scandal.

Prosecutors now suspect that there has been a systematic practice within the faction of not including kickbacks in political funds reports, and will investigate the flow of funds and how the Abe faction operates, with a view to questioning Matsuno and others who have served as the faction’s secretaries general.

“We’re closely examining [reports] retroactively. I believe that at some point I must fulfill my accountability,” Nishimura said at Friday’s meeting of the lower house budget committee, but he stopped short of saying exactly when he would explain.