• Crime & Courts

Tokyo Prosecutors Likely to Establish Case against LDP Abe Faction Accountant

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Public Prosecutors Office building, which houses the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, is seen in Chiyoda, Ward, Tokyo.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is considering bringing a case against the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction accountant for violating the Political Funds Control Law, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The case would be built around an alleged failure to record a portion of income from political fundraising parties in the faction’s political funds reports.

The office’s special investigation squad has requested that lawmakers of the faction — the LDP’s largest faction once led by late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — answer questions voluntarily, according to sources.

The prosecutors will likely question dozens of people around the same time, including former secretaries general who were responsible for overseeing the faction’s practical affairs, the sources said.

The faction is suspected of kicking back to its members in cash the amount of party tickets sales in excess of members’ sales quotas, according to sources. Neither the faction nor the recipients of the funds recorded the kickbacks as income in their political funds reports, making such money “hidden funds,” the sources said.

The alleged kickbacks are estimated to have totaled around ¥500 million over the five-year period from 2018 through 2022, while funds left off the faction’s funds reports may exceed ¥1 billion, according to the sources.

The law obliges those responsible for keeping the books of political organizations to record revenue and expenditures in political funds reports and submit such records accordingly.

In the latest scandal, the faction’s accountant allegedly did not document suspected kickbacks in reports and may have demanded that such monies not be included in lawmakers’ own political funds reports.

The accounting official admitted to having not recorded the kickbacks in the faction’s reports and explained how the scheme worked during voluntary questioning by investigators, according to the sources.

Dozens of faction members, including five senior lawmakers — Hirokazu Matsuno, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Koichi Hagiuda, Tsuyoshi Takagi and Hiroshige Seko — are suspected of receiving kickbacks and creating hidden funds.

Ten or more faction members, including Matsuno, Takagi and Seko, are each believed to have received off-the-books kickbacks of more than ¥10 million.

Investigators strongly believe that the faction led the hidden-funds scheme and plan to launch a full-scale investigation on suspicion that the faction violated the law.

Meanwhile, investigators are expected to question individual lawmakers on a voluntary basis, asking them whether they received off-the-books kickbacks, how much they acquired, how the money was used and how it was documented in funds reports.

The LDP’s Nikai faction (led by Toshihiro Nikai) and the Kishida faction (until recently headed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida) are also suspected of underreporting party income in the reports of their respective factions.

The Nikai faction’s alleged off-the-books income is estimated to exceed ¥100 million, while that of the Kishida faction is thought to total several tens of millions of yen.

Investigators are also continuing their probe into both factions.