Prosecutors Question Former Education Minister Shimomura on Allegations of Concealing Funds

Former education minister Hakubun Shimomura has been questioned by public prosecutors on a voluntary basis regarding the political funds scandal involving the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad has been looking into the issue, particularly how kickbacks from political fundraising party income were not properly documented in relevant political funds reports. It has been reported that these kickbacks were distributed to members of the Abe faction.

The scandal has also led to the questioning of several other lawmakers suspected of violating the Political Funds Control Law. This includes 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, former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, and former Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Ryu Shionoya.

These lawmakers, also known as the faction’s core “five-man group,” have come under scrutiny for their involvement in the scandal. The investigation has revealed that the faction allegedly distributed cash kickbacks to its members, equivalent to the amount of party ticket sales they sold in excess of their quota. It is estimated that a total of ¥500 million was left out of the faction’s or recipients’ reports over a five-year period ending in 2022. This amount falls within the statute of limitations for prosecution.

Shimomura, who served as the faction’s secretary general from January 2018 to September 2019, later became its acting leader. However, he was removed as an executive in August following the faction’s transition to a collective leadership structure after the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022.

The political funds scandal continues to rock the Abe faction, raising questions about the ethical conduct of its members and the potential legal ramifications of their actions. The voluntary questioning of Hakubun Shimomura and other lawmakers is a significant development in the ongoing investigation. It remains to be seen how this scandal will impact the future of the faction and the individuals involved, as public prosecutors work to uncover the full extent of the alleged misconduct. The repercussions of the scandal could have far-reaching implications for Japan’s political landscape, with potential implications for the Liberal Democratic Party as a whole. As the investigation unfolds, the public will be closely watching for further developments in this high-profile case.

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