Japanese prosecutors indicted several individuals from three factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) amidst political a fundraising scandal on Friday, according to local media. Former accountants of the Abe and Nikai factions within the LDP were indicted without arrest. The indictments follow a decision not to indict senior executive members of the Abe, Kishida and Nikai factions due to a lack of evidence, said prosecutors.
Tokyo prosecutors were investigating whether lawmakers of the Abe faction had colluded with the faction’s accountant, but they failed to find evidence of such collusion, said prosecutors. “We judged it difficult to prove any collusion,” said Takashi Shinkawa, a Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office official. Kenta Izumi, chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, responded to the indictment by telling reporters that the prosecutor’s decision not to indict the LDP executives “preys on the weak.”
The indictments spread across members and officials of the Abe, Kishida and Nikai factions within the LDP. The Abe faction, the largest, was headed by the late Shinzo Abe. The Kishida faction was formerly led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai led the eponymous Nikai faction before its dissolution last week.
The ruling party has been under intense scrutiny as the largest faction, the Abe faction, is believed to have failed to report approximately 500 million yen in revenue from fundraising parties across a 5-year period. Prosecutors indicted without arrest the Abe faction’s chief accountant and the Nikai faction’s former chief accountant.
Summary indictments were issued against the former chief accountant of Kishida’s faction, a politician of the Abe faction, an influential figure of the LDP and a secretary of the Nikai faction. A summary indictment means that prosecutors have requested that the individuals be fined by a summary court.
All indicted individuals within the ruling LDP party are suspected of violating Japanese political funds control law by failing to report their factions’ revenue from fundraising events. While it is legal for a political party to raise funds through ticket sales to fundraising events, Japan’s Political Funds Control Act requires that these sales be reported and filed in a political funding report.
In addition to the Abe faction, the Nikai and Kishida factions are also being investigated for not disclosing fundraising revenue in their factions’ political fund balance reports. The Nikai is suspected to have failed to report over 200 million yen in revenue between 2018 and 2022, and the Kishida faction is suspected of not detailing 30 million yen over three years to 2022.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a press conference on January 18 that the Kishida faction has applied to the Ministry of Affairs and Communication for a correction of the fundraising report. Hayashi described the reporting inconsistency as a “repeated administrative error,” assuring the LDP will be working on the rules and regulations to ensure that this type of error does not happen again.
Reform of the Political Funds Control Act is expected to be an issue of discussion at the upcoming meeting of the national legislature of Japan, the ordinary Diet session, to be convened on Friday following calls from within the LDP to strengthen the law on political funds and restore public trust in government.