• Politics & Government

Prosecutors: Mishandling of Political Funds ‘Intentional and Harmful’; No Evidence for Involvement of Faction Execs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nikai faction leader Toshihiro Nikai, center, announces the dissolution of his faction at the faction’s office in Tokyo on Friday.

Tokyo prosecutors have filed indictments against a total of eight people for violating the Political Funds Control Law in light of a scandal in which a total of nearly ¥1 billion in revenue from political fundraising parties held by factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was improperly handled. Some of the eight received summary indictments and others were indicted without arrest.

“We concluded that their acts had all been intentional and harmful,” a senior prosecutor said.

The people who have been indicted are the three former and incumbent accounting managers of the Abe, Nikai and Kishida factions and five people who were lawmakers of these factions and their secretaries.

As the total amount not reported by the Abe and Nikai factions reached hundreds of million yen, the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decided to demand prison sentences at trial for the two accounting managers of these factions, according to informed sources. Four of the eight indicted people — the former accounting manager of the Kishida faction whose unreported amount totaled ¥30 million to ¥50 million, House of Representatives member Yaichi Tanigawa, 82, his secretary and the secretary of Toshihiro Nikai, 84, the leader of the Nikai faction and former LDP Secretary General — received summary indictments as the prosecutors believe that they deserve fines.

However, House of Councillors member Yasutada Ono, 64, denies the allegation that he conspired with his secretary in the nonreporting of money. For that reason, the prosecutors reportedly chose to indict him without arrest, as summary indictment is made on the assumption that the defendant would admit to the charges.

The prosecutors are expected to decide how to deal with lower house member Yoshitaka Ikeda, 57, and his secretary — who were arrested on Jan. 7 due to concerns over the destruction of evidence — by Jan. 26, when the period of their detention in custody ends. The amount not reported by them totals about ¥48 million. If they admit to the charges, they might receive summary indictments.

On the other hand, the prosecutors did not build a case against the executives of the three factions. The special investigation squad concluded that all the executives had not been involved in the preparation of political funds reports and that these crimes had been committed by members engaged in clerical work.

Regarding the Abe faction, it was learned that executives of the faction had discussed whether to continue the practice of kickbacks after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had led the faction, was fatally shot in July 2022. The special investigation squad repeatedly interviewed them to confirm their involvement not only in the payment of kickbacks but also in the nonreporting of the money. The executives all explained that while they had known about the kickback practice, they had not been aware of the unreported funds. The indicted accounting manager of the Abe faction also denied being consulted or receiving any instruction from the executives regarding the nonreporting. The prosecutors did not find any other objective evidence and, for this reason, did not recognize that any collusion had taken place.