• Politics & Government

LDP Abe Faction’s Kickback Practice Dates Back 20 Years; Faction Leaders Deny Knowing Funds Went Unreported

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An Abe faction political fundraising party in Minato Ward, Tokyo, in May

The practice of providing kickbacks from political fundraising parties has continued in the Abe faction for more than 20 years, several faction insiders said.

The faction, also known as Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, has provided its members with cash equivalent to the amount by which they exceed their individual quotas for fundraising party ticket sales.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has held voluntary interviews with the faction’s senior officials — former Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council Chairperson Koichi Hagiuda, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, former LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi, former LDP Secretary General for the House of Councillors Hiroshige Seko and former Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Ryu Shionoya — about the circumstances behind the off-the-book funds.

The five all denied their involvement by saying that they had been aware of the practice of kickbacks, but not that the kickbacks were not included in the political funds reports.

The faction is suspected of failing to include the kickback monies in political funds reports of both the faction itself and its individual members. The amount left out of the reports is estimated to total ¥500 million over the five-year period ending 2022, which is within the statute of limitations on prosecution.

According to the sources, the practice has existed at least since the early 2000s, when the number of faction members surged when the group was known to have then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as a member.

The prosecutors are considering building a case against the faction’s treasurer, who compiled the income and expenditure reports for 2018 and later years, on suspicion of violations of the Political Funds Control Law, but they suspect that the monies have gone unreported much further back.