Kickbacks Allegedly Kept Off-the-Books by More than 10 Members of Late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Political Faction

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

More than 10 members of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political faction are suspected of having misappropriated income from fundraising parties by receiving off-the-books kickbacks, according to sources.

Of the five Liberal Democratic Party factions alleged to have similar accounting irregularities, the faction led by Abe until his death in July 2022 is the largest in the ruling party.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad is considering questioning dozens of LDP lawmakers who allegedly misappropriated the income and senior party members involved in the management of the factions. The squad is drastically boosting the scale of its investigation, bringing in additional prosecutors from across the nation.

Investigators are looking into the possibility of prosecuting the case as a violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

The Abe faction’s political funds reports listed a total income of about ¥660 million from fundraising parties held from 2018 to 2022. The faction is said to have routinely operated in such a way that a portion of income from party tickets sold by each faction member in excess of a quota was given as a kickback to the faction member, according to sources close to the investigation. It is suspected that the kickbacks were not listed in the faction’s political funds reports.

Some legislators allegedly pooled the income in excess of their quota at their own offices. Investigators suspect that more than ¥100 million was kept off the books by the more than 10 lawmakers through kickbacks or pooling the income over the five-year period.

The sources said that the faction’s undocumented funds amount to hundreds of millions of yen over the five years. It is also suspected that faction members who received the kickbacks also failed to list the money in their political funds reports as required by law.

Other factions have also reportedly failed to properly list income from party tickets sold by their members in excess of their quotas in their political funds reports.

A criminal complaint had been filed on suspicion that political organizations of the five LDP factions in question understated their income from fundraising parties by a total of about ¥40 million in their political funds reports between 2018 and 2021. The special investigation squad had been questioning the people in charge of accounting or other duties at each faction as part of this investigation. Consequently, the prosecutors came to increasingly suspect that the practice of off-the-books kickbacks is widely used not only by the Abe faction but also other LDP factions.

By expanding the scale of the task force, the special investigation squad is considering questioning those concerned once the extraordinary Diet session ends on Dec. 13.

The penalty for failure to properly state information in political funds reports is imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to ¥1 million.