December 14, 2023
TOKYO – The Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction is suspected of having asked its lawmakers to report as income the cash kickbacks they received from fundraising parties held last year, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The faction was likely seeking to hide the use of the money as slush funds by having its members record the cash as independently earned funds in their political funds reports.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is expected to launch a full-scale investigation into the scandal soon. Prosecutors are considering bringing charges against the faction’s accounting staff on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law.
According to sources, the Abe faction, once led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, assigned each of its legislators a sales quota for party tickets and gave them kickbacks equal to what they earned above their quota. The faction did not record the cash as income or expenditures in its political funds report and asked its members not to record the kickbacks in their reports.
However, the faction has kept its own records of the party income including the amounts earned above quotas, as well as records of the legislators who took kickbacks and how much they received, the sources said. Prosecutors obtained the records in the course of the investigations.
However, after a fundraising party in May last year, the faction’s accounting staff asked members to record the year’s kickbacks in their political funds reports as their own party income.
After the request, the office of one of the legislators reportedly deposited the cash kickbacks into its bank account and recorded the money as party income for its affiliated political organization.
The switch to reporting the cash likely came because some faction members expressed concern about the accounting methods used for the party income.
Since last autumn, there have been a number of allegations that LDP factions, including the Abe faction, have underreported income from fundraising parties.
The Abe faction’s alleged off-the-books payouts have been found to total ¥500 million over the past five years.