Four Senior Members of the Abe Faction Voluntarily Questioned for Suspected Concealment of Funds

In an unusual turn of events, four prominent members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction have voluntarily undergone questioning by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office regarding suspected hidden funds. This is a rare occurrence, as it is uncommon for politicians holding influential positions to be interrogated by investigative agencies, especially on a voluntary basis.

The individuals questioned include former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, former LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi, former LDP Secretary General for the House of Councillors Hiroshige Seko, and former Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology Minister Ryu Shionoya. The focus of the interrogation was to ascertain why the funds were not disclosed, whether they had instructed the faction’s treasurer to conceal the funds, and to gain an understanding of the circumstances surrounding the off-the-book funds.

The special investigation squad commenced the questioning of faction members, who were suspected of receiving substantial kickbacks, following the adjournment of the Diet’s extraordinary session on Dec. 13. Subsequently, they conducted a search of the faction’s Tokyo office on Dec. 19 and requested interviews with its senior members.

It has been alleged that the Abe faction provided its members with cash equal to the amount collected in party ticket sales exceeding their allotted quotas, without including such funds in their political financial reports. The total amount of unreported funds over the five-year period ending in 2022 is estimated to be around ¥500 million, which is still within the statute of limitations on prosecution.

Matsuno, who was the faction’s secretary general until October 2021 and also served as chief cabinet secretary until Dec. 14, 2021, and Takagi, who has been the faction’s secretary general since August 2022, are among the individuals suspected of failing to report over ¥10 million in kickbacks from the faction in their own political balance reports.

Furthermore, the faction’s treasurer admitted to not reporting the funds, as he is responsible for compiling and submitting an income and expenditure report as required by law. This revelation has led the prosecutors to consider pursuing a case related to potential violations of the Political Funds Control Law.

It is noteworthy that Matsuno, Takagi, and Seko, along with former LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Koichi Hagiuda and former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, form the Abe faction’s core as a “five-man group,” with Shionoya operating as the faction’s de facto chairman.

In conclusion, the voluntary questioning of these high-ranking LDP officials has raised significant concerns and speculation regarding potential violations of political funds laws. As the investigations unfold, there is a growing sense of unease within the faction and the political landscape at large. The potential repercussions of these developments remain to be seen as the situation continues to develop.


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