THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
December 4, 2020 at 15:20 JST
Reporters seek answers from workers at the office of a support group for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo
Prosecutors are expected to slap summary indictments on two close associates of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over their failure to report expenses for lavish hotel banquets held for his supporters, sources said.
The two--Abe’s senior state-paid aide and an official in charge of clerical matters at his support group--will be charged with violating the Political Fund Control Law by not listing payments totaling about 30 million yen ($289,000) for the annual parties held from 2016 to 2019, the sources said.
However, given the amount of money involved, the two will only receive summary indictments that carry possible fines but will not involve an actual court trial.
Investigators with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office have been looking into the banquets hosted by the support group, which is headed by the senior public aide.
The hotel banquets were held on the eve of annual cherry blossom viewing events hosted by Abe in the capital. Most of the guests were from Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Prosecutors also plan to ask Abe to submit to voluntary questioning after the extraordinary Diet session closes on Dec. 5 to determine his understanding of the matter. When approached by reporters on Dec. 3 about the possible questioning, Abe said he had not been told about it.
Investigators will likely seek background information from Abe as well as an explanation on why he repeatedly denied in the Diet that his support groups shouldered any financial burden for the banquets.
The senior aide and others have admitted that they broke the law by failing to include the amounts in the political fund reports, but they told investigators that the decision to do so was made by them, the sources said.
Guests at the banquets paid 5,000 yen each, meaning that their total fees came to about 14 million yen from 2015 to 2019.
However, the total cost of the banquets over that five-year period was about 23 million yen. The Abe support group covered the difference of about 9 million yen.
Each year, the host hotel issued a receipt for the amount subsidized by the support group to another support group that Abe himself heads.
After questioning hotel officials and aides to Abe, prosecutors became convinced that the revenues and expenditures related to the banquets should have been included in the annual fund reports of the support group that hosted the event.
The senior aide and the support group official were in charge of accounting matters, so they will be the ones facing the summary indictments.
The amount related to the 2015 banquet will not be covered in the indictment because the period for keeping annual fund reports at the election administration commission and elsewhere has expired.
But for the four-year period from 2016 to 2019, the two will be charged for failing to include a total of about 11 million yen in revenues received from the banquet participants as well as about 19 million yen in expenditures to pay for the banquets. The latter figure includes the 8 million yen or so provided by the support group.
Prosecutors will continue to look into how the support group raised the 8 million yen to determine if anything shady was involved.
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