• Crime & Courts

100 Abe Faction Members Allegedly Failed to Report Earnings; Members’ Hidden Funds Likely over ¥570 Million (Update 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office staff enter the building housing the office of the Abe faction in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Dec. 19.

Some 100 past and present members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction allegedly failed to report fundraising party income gained through kickbacks or kept by members’ offices over the five years ending 2022, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Party revenue that members kept for their own offices is believed to total at least ¥70 million. Adding in kickbacks, the faction’s unreported funds likely come to more than ¥570 million, according to sources.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is aware of the faction’s two-pronged scheme for creating hidden funds. Thinking to build cases on violations of the Political Funds Control Law, the squad is investigating those who failed to report particularly large sums, as well as the faction’s treasurer.

According to the sources, some 100 former and current members of the faction, once led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are suspected of taking cash kickbacks equal to the amount by which they exceeded their quota for selling tickets to fundraising parties. Some members are believed to have given only the quota earnings to the faction and kept the rest for their own political organizations, without recording the sums as income on political funds reports.

The faction currently has 99 members. The 100 or so people in question comprise some 80 current and 20 former members.

Of them, more than 10 people, including those in senior faction posts, were found to have both taken kickbacks and kept money from the faction. In one case, just the money kept from the faction exceeded ¥10 million, according to the sources.

Lawmakers did not report to the faction that they kept the money in some cases, and prosecutors strongly believe that the sums kept should have been recorded as the faction’s income, given that they were originally meant as payments to the faction.

Prosecutors from Dec. 27 to 29 searched offices and other places linked to House of Councillors lawmaker Yasutada Ono, 64, and House of Representatives lawmaker Yoshitaka Ikeda, 57, who each allegedly failed to document more than ¥40 million in their political funds reports. Prosecutors continue to investigate as they seek to build cases against the two.

However, in many cases the sums lawmakers left off their reports were as small as hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of yen, making it likely that prosecutors will pursue cases selectively, taking into account the amount of money involved.

Prosecutors searched the faction’s office on Dec. 19 and questioned on a voluntary basis several core faction members, including former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, 61, who once served as the faction’s secretary general. Prosecutors are also investigating whether faction executives were involved in keeping income off political funds reports.