• Politics & Government

Ex-Education Minister Shimomura Questioned by Prosecutors over Hidden Funds

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hakubun Shimomura

Public prosecutors have questioned former education minister Hakubun Shimomura on a voluntary basis over the political funds scandal involving the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction, according to sources.

Shimomura, 69, once served as the faction’s secretary general who oversaw practical affairs. The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is believed to have confirmed how kickbacks — taken from political fundraising party income and given to its members — were not documented in relevant political funds reports.

In connection with the scandal, prosecutors have so far questioned the following lawmakers on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law: former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, 61; Tsuyoshi Takagi, 67, a former chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee; Hiroshige Seko, 61, a former secretary general for the LDP in the House of Councillors; Koichi Hagiuda, 60, a former chairperson of the party’s Policy Research Council; former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, 61, and former Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Ryu Shionoya, 73, who is the faction’s coordinator.

Matsuno, Takagi, Seko, Hagiuda and Nishimura are known as the faction’s core “five-man group.”

The faction, formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is suspected of having given its members cash kickbacks equivalent to the amount of party ticket sales they sold in excess of their quota. The amount of money left out of the faction’s or recipients’ reports is thought to total ¥500 million over a five-year period ending in 2022, which is within the statute of limitations for prosecution.

Shimomura served as the faction’s secretary general from January 2018 to September 2019. He later became its acting leader, but was removed as an executive in August following the faction’s transition to a collective leadership structure after the fatal shooting of Abe in July 2022.