Prosecutors to Launch Full-scale Investigation into LDP Abe Faction over Alleged Hidden Funds

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
State Minister of Defense Hiroyuki Miyazawa

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has decided to launch a full-scale investigation into the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction, suspecting it hid income from ticket sales for fundraising parties.

The faction is strongly suspected of having a systemic problem with kickbacks from ticket sales and failing to report such money in political funds reports. The office’s special investigation squad concluded an investigation was needed, as the faction could be violating the Political Funds Control Law. The investigation is expected to be launched in consideration of the political schedule, including the change of cabinet members Thursday.

The squad put together this month an investigative team of about 50 members, some of whom were drawn from prosecutors offices across the country. So far, the team has been interviewing secretaries of the lawmakers suspected of taking kickbacks, and is expected to soon start interviews with the lawmakers themselves.

Kickbacks to faction members are estimated to total ¥500 million over the past five years, while funds left off the faction’s financial reports may exceed ¥1 billion, according to sources.

Dozens of lawmakers, including faction executives, are also suspected of using the kickbacks as hidden funds, and 10 or more members are said to have each received over ¥10 million.

The faction has kept its own records of the party income including the amounts earned above quotas, as well as records of the legislators who took kickbacks and how much they received. It is suspected of systematically and continuously creating hidden funds, such as by paying lawmakers kickbacks in cash and telling them not to include the money in their political funds reports.

On Wednesday, State Minister of Defense Hiroyuki Miyazawa, 48, admitted to taking ¥1.4 million in kickbacks from the faction from 2020 to 2022.

“I was instructed by the faction not to include [the money] in funds reports,” he said. “I wondered if this was OK, but I had to assume it was legal since they had been doing this for many years.”