December 12, 2023
TOKYO – Former Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto and several other lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have emerged as suspected recipients of off-the-books kickbacks taken from political party fundraising revenue, it has been learned.
Hashimoto, 59, a House of Councillors lawmaker and a member of the Abe faction, is suspected of receiving more than ¥10 million in such hidden funds over the past five years, but failed to document them in her political funds reports, according to sources.
It has also come to light that at least three members of the faction are suspected of each receiving between more than ¥40 million and more than ¥50 million.
The Abe faction is the LDP’s largest political faction, previously led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Ryu Shionoya, 73, a former education, culture, sports, science and technology minister, and Koichi Hagiuda, 60, the chairperson of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, have also surfaced as suspected recipients of off-the-books kickbacks, in addition to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, 61; Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, 61; Tsuyoshi Takagi, 67, the chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee; and Hiroshige Seko, 61, the party’s secretary general in the House of Councillors.
Of these senior members of the faction, Shionoya, Matsuno and Nishimura have served in the past as the faction’s secretary general who oversees practical affairs, while Takagi has been in the post since August 2022.
Several dozen lawmakers of the faction are suspected of failing to state kickback funds totaling several hundred million yen over the past five years.
The amount Matsuno, Takagi and Seko allegedly have received is believed to be more than ¥10 million each over the last five years.
Upper house lawmaker Yasutada Ono, 64, may have possibly received more than ¥50 million, while House of Representatives lawmakers Yoshitaka Ikeda, 57, and Yaichi Tanigawa, 82, may have received more than ¥40 million each, according to sources.
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating the allegations of the violation of the Political Funds Control Law and is looking into questioning dozens of Abe faction lawmakers — mainly those who have received large amounts of kickbacks — to clarify the actual flow of money and the circumstances over why they failed to include the money in their political funds reports.
Asked about the matter, Tanigawa in Nagasaki and the offices of Hashimoto and Ono have each responded to the media, saying they were carefully confirming the facts and would take appropriate action.