Japan Weighs Criminal Cases Against Ruling Party Over Fundraising Scandal

Sun Dec 31 2023
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TOKYO: Prosecutors in Japan are considering the pursuit of criminal cases in January against accountants associated with two factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as part of a widening political fundraising scandal.

The investigation centers on allegations that the factions created slush funds through off-the-book revenues generated from fundraising parties. Additionally, prosecutors are weighing whether to build cases against two LDP lawmakers suspected of receiving tens of millions of yen under the alleged scheme.

The two factions under scrutiny are the LDP’s largest, formerly led by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and another led by former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai. The focus on accountants and lawmakers is part of a probe into funds raised through the sale of tickets for faction events beyond assigned quotas, with excess funds allegedly going unreported in political funds reports and being transferred to the lawmakers.

Japan’s Political Funds Control Act

The potential criminal charges under consideration are rooted in the Political Funds Control Act, which mandates accountants to submit reports on income and expenditures. Failure to comply with reporting requirements can result in imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to 1 million yen. Lawmakers may also face criminal charges if suspected of collusion with accountants.

In the unfolding scandal, the Abe faction is accused of not reporting transferred funds as expenditure, while lawmakers who received the money allegedly failed to record it as income. The total sum of these funds is estimated to be around 500 million yen ($3.5 million) over a five-year period through 2022. The Nikai group, similarly implicated, is suspected of not reporting funds earned from ticket sales beyond quotas, with an estimated sum exceeding 100 million yen over the same five years.

To minimize the impact of a criminal investigation on parliamentary discussions, prosecutors traditionally opt to build criminal cases while the Diet session is closed when politicians or their aides are involved. The government and the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito party are working towards convening the regular Diet session for 150 days, either on January 22 or January 26.


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