Photo/Illutration Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks with reporters in the Diet building on Dec. 4. (Koichi Ueda)

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made at least 118 false statements in the Diet about hotel banquets held for his supporters, according to an investigation that has fueled demands that he testify before lawmakers.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan asked the Lower House’s research office to look into Abe’s past comments about the dinner parties that took place on the eve of annual cherry blossom viewing events hosted by Abe in the capital.

The investigation results released on Dec. 21 showed that Abe, as prime minister, made 118 false statements at 33 committee meetings and plenary sessions of both houses of the Diet from November 2019 to March 2020.

A support group headed by Abe’s state-paid aide covered part of the costs of the hotel banquets. The payments were not reported, and prosecutors are investigating the matter as a possible violation of the Political Fund Control Law.

During Diet questioning, Abe on 70 occasions falsely said his office had nothing to do with the payments. He also wrongly said 20 times that there were no itemized bills for the parties, according to the investigation.

On 28 occasions, Abe said his office did not cover the balance between the actual costs of the banquets and what the hotel charged Abe’s supporters.

Takahiro Kuroiwa, acting Diet affairs committee chief of the CDP, told reporters that the investigation “was done by the Lower House’s Cabinet research office objectively and neutrally.”

“The results show Mr. Abe made false statements 118 times. It is logical for him to accept (our requests) and give sworn or unsworn testimony (in the Diet),” Kuroiwa said.

Prosecutors have questioned Abe’s aide and others over the failure to list the payments in annual fund reports. They have said they acted on their own and that Abe was not involved, according to investigative sources.

Participants who traveled to Tokyo from their homes in Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture paid 5,000 yen ($48) each, a sum described as extremely low for the luxury venues. Hotel receipts showed that the actual costs of each banquet were much higher than the fees paid by participants.

Over the five-year period between 2015 and 2019, the support group is suspected of paying about 9.16 million yen to cover the difference.

Opposition party lawmakers have demanded that Abe give unsworn testimony at open meetings of the Budget Committee in the Diet to clarify where the money came from and why he had previously denied that such payments were made for the dinner parties.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is currently discussing a plan to ask Abe to explain the matter at a steering committee meeting of both the Lower House and Upper House by the end of the year. However, such a meeting would be held behind closed doors.