• Politics & Government

Abe Faction Adds ¥435 Million in Party Income to Funds Reports; Issues Apology for ‘Causing Distrust in Politics’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Abe faction attend a meeting at LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Jan. 19.

The Liberal Democratic Party faction once led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has corrected its political funds reports to declare ¥435.88 million in additional income from fundraising parties.

Formally known as Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, the faction reported its corrections to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry on Wednesday. The changes showed that the faction, which has been embroiled in a scandal over alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law, failed to report a total of ¥453.09 million, including funds that were carried over, in the three-year period from 2020 to 2022.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has found that the faction did not list a total of about ¥675 million, including income from fundraising parties, over the five years to 2022. However, the faction only corrected its funds reports for the past three years, as political organizations’ funds reports are subject to disclosure for that length of time.

In the corrections, the faction listed additional income from parties of ¥161.21 million for 2020, ¥171.85 million for 2021 and ¥102.82 million for 2022. Party revenues account for more than 90% of the faction’s total earnings.

The faction failed to declare a total of ¥427.42 million in donations to the political organizations of its members and other people over the three-year period. It is believed that the money was kicked back to the faction’s lawmakers and others, and left out of funds reports.

On Wednesday, the faction said that additional donations to 95 organizations of its lawmakers and others totaled ¥676.54 million during the five-year period to 2022. It released a statement offering “sincere apologies for causing distrust in politics.”

The faction corrected its funds reports about two months after its alleged practice of creating hidden funds from fundraising parties came to light. In the amended reports, kickbacks from the parties and other funds to its members have been now recorded as donations from the faction.

More than 90 lawmakers of the faction were listed as recipients of the donations.

In the corrections submitted to the ministry, the faction reported additional income totaling ¥435.88 million in excess of quotas for party ticket sales and expenditures of ¥427.42 million, which corresponds to the amount returned to the faction’s lawmakers for the three years.

Among the faction’s executives, the corrected reports showed that the political organization of Koichi Hagiuda, a former chairperson of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, received ¥19.52 million in donations. Those of former LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno each received ¥8.65 million.

Hagiuda had said earlier that his organization omitted a total of ¥27.28 million in funds reports for 2018 to 2022. Likewise, Takagi said he failed to list a total of ¥10.19 million and Matsuno claimed to have omitted ¥10.51 million, both over the same five-year period.

The corrections submitted by the faction Wednesday showed smaller amounts.

According to sources, the faction had been investigating its executives and other lawmakers, as well as political organizations to which kickbacks were given and other relevant entities, to determine the amount of undeclared funds for the past five years.

In the statement released Wednesday, however, the faction only said that additional donations paid to 95 organizations over the past five years totaled ¥676.54 million. It did not disclose the names of relevant lawmakers and the amount of the kickbacks, or the amounts of such money for 2018 and 2019.

Faction executives did not give a press conference on Wednesday. It remains unknown, therefore, when and why the practice of kickbacks began. The circumstances surrounding the decision not to list the kickbacks in the funds reports of both the faction and its lawmakers also remain unclear.

“The Abe faction has not fulfilled its accountability,” said Tadashi Kunihiro, a lawyer specializing in crisis management. “Unless an objective third-party committee investigates to determine the facts and clarify where the responsibility lies, it will be impossible to consider measures to prevent a recurrence.”