Abe Faction’s 6th Key Member Nishimura Voluntarily Questioned by Prosecutors on Political Funds

Former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, a prominent member of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction, has voluntarily appeared before prosecutors to answer questions regarding unreported political funds, sources revealed. This development marks the sixth high-ranking member of the faction, formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to be summoned by the special investigation unit of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.

The investigation squad has already interviewed former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, former chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee Tsuyoshi Takagi, former secretary general for the LDP in the House of Councillors Hiroshige Seko, former chairperson of the party’s Policy Research Council Koichi Hagiuda, and former Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Ryu Shionoya, who served as the faction’s coordinator.

Nishimura, along with Matsuno, Takagi, Seko, and Hagiuda, form the faction’s core “five-man group.” During his tenure as the faction’s secretary general, Nishimura assumed Matsuno’s position and served in this role from October 2021 to August 2022. Reports suggest that the investigation squad inquired about the circumstances surrounding the omission of kickbacks given from the faction to its lawmakers in the political funds reports.

The Abe faction is suspected of failing to disclose kickbacks from political fundraising events in the political funds reports of both the faction and its individual members. The undisclosed amount reportedly totals ¥500 million over the past five years, falling within the statute of limitations for prosecution. Nishimura’s camp is alleged to have omitted several hundred thousand yen from the funds reports of his political group.

In a separate development, the investigation squad conducted a search of the office of Yasutada Ono, an Abe faction member, in Hashima, Gifu Prefecture, on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law. This marks the third consecutive day that an office of a faction lawmaker has been subjected to a search.

The search, led by approximately 10 investigators, commenced on Friday morning and concluded around 5 p.m., during which time more than 15 cardboard boxes, presumed to contain seized materials, were removed from the premises. Following the search, Ono’s secretary declined to answer questions from reporters, citing the ongoing investigation, and revealed that they had been unable to reach Ono.

Allegations suggest that Ono’s camp failed to include kickbacks of more than ¥50 million as income in the political funds reports of his political group. Additionally, the investigation squad conducted searches at Ono’s office in the Diet members’ building in Tokyo and other locations on Thursday, further intensifying the ongoing probe.

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