Matsuno and Seko Voluntarily Questioned Over Allegations of Hidden Funds; Emphasis on Evidence of Instructions and Approval

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad is set to question senior officials from the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction, Hirokazu Matsuno and Hiroshige Seko, over suspected hidden funds. The investigating team aims to uncover the background behind the faction’s failure to report kickbacks and determine the officials’ awareness of the situation. This next phase of the investigation into the alleged “faction-led hidden funds” will involve interviews with key officials to shed light on the matter.

The focus of the inquiry will be on exploring the potential involvement of lawmakers in funds believed to surpass ¥500 million that went unreported over a five-year period until 2022, violating the Political Funds Control Law. The complex nature of the case presents significant challenges in establishing culpability among the lawmakers. Senior prosecutors stressed the importance of interviewing the faction’s senior officials to understand the intricate workings of the hidden fund system within factions.

A significant development in the investigation came as the faction’s treasurer admitted to not recording the kickbacks received by the lawmakers. The main focus now lies on determining whether charges will be brought against the faction’s executives, which hinges on establishing collusion with the treasurer and proving clear instructions, reporting, and approval processes by the executives.

The faction was led by Hiroyuki Hosoda until 2021, and subsequently by Shinzo Abe until 2022. Following Abe’s tenure, officials including Matsuno and Seko took over the faction’s management. The investigation is expected to delve into the decision-making process within the faction, although proving collusion among its members will be a challenging task.

The scope of the investigation extends to the lawmakers affiliated with the Abe faction, many of whom are suspected of receiving kickbacks without recording them in their respective political funds reports. Several Diet members and their secretaries have confessed to failing in their reporting obligations. However, the prosecution must prove conspiracy with the treasurer of the political organization to build a case against the legislators themselves.

The investigative team also faces the challenge of determining the boundaries for the scope of the case, taking into account the wide range of kickback amounts returned to the lawmakers. The case of Kentaro Sonoura, a former LDP member of the House of Representatives, provides a precedent. Sonoura was indicted for violating the Political Funds Control Law, with alleged underreported income from fundraising parties.

In the case involving the Abe faction, three lawmakers are suspected of significant omissions in their fund reports. The squad will also examine any circumstances that may increase the severity of the case, such as the potential personal use of the returned money. If found guilty, the lawmakers could face suspension of their civil rights and potential job loss.

The decision to pursue charges against the lawmakers will be approached with careful consideration due to its serious implications. The investigation into the hidden funds within the LDP’s Abe faction continues to unfold, with a focus on understanding the complexities surrounding the unreported kickbacks and their potential legal consequences.


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