Tokyo Prosecutors Seek to Question People Tied to Abe Faction; Attention is on Hirokazu Matsuno, Other Secretaries General (UPDATE 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has made requests for voluntary questioning of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno’s side in connection with the Liberal Democratic Party’s political fundraising party scandal, according to sources.

Such requests have also been made in regard to other Abe faction executives, the sources said.

Matsuno, 61, served as secretary general of the faction.

The investigation squad is likely to carefully examine whether the faction’s executives were involved in underreporting income from fundraising parties in political funds reports after giving kickbacks to the faction’s lawmakers.

According to sources, the Abe faction, also known as Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, provided its members with cash equivalent to the amounts by which they exceeded their respective quotas for fundraising party ticket sales, but neither the faction nor the members included the cash in their political funds reports, apparently in violation of the Political Funds Control Law. The kickbacks are estimated to have totaled ¥500 million over the five years through 2022, a period that falls within the statute of limitations.

The treasurer of the Abe faction is said to have admitted to failing to state the information in the political funds report when voluntarily questioned by the special investigation squad. Through voluntary questioning focused on Matsuno’s side, and the sides of other faction executives who have served as its secretary general — a key post in charge of the faction’s practical affairs — the squad is believed to be aiming to confirm whether they had instructed the treasurer to make the omissions or endorsed the conduct after being made aware of it.

While Matsuno served as secretary general of the faction from September 2019 to October 2021, he is also suspected of failing to record in his political funds report over ¥10 million he received from the faction as kickbacks.

Matsuno’s successor as the faction’s secretary general was Yasutoshi Nishimura, now 61, who until this month was the economy, trade and industry minister. The faction’s current secretary general is Tsuyoshi Takagi, 67, who is also the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee chairperson.