Former Japan PM Abe apologizes over alleged political funding scam

Tokyo, Dec 24 (efe-epa).- Former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Thursday apologized to the nation over an alleged political funding scam by his office that may have violated the electoral laws of the country.

Abe told reporters that he was not aware that his office had partly sponsored lavish dinner parties for his supporters, which is now being probed by Tokyo prosecutors.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to the people,” Abe said.

The former prime minister said he was ready to “bear a heavy political responsibility, which I accept wholeheartedly.”

Abe’s apology came hours after the prosecutors, probing the alleged scam, said they would not indict the former prime minister in the matter but asserted that one of his aides had failed to maintain the financial records of the dinner receptions.

Abe reiterated that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” of the irregularities related to the costs paid by his office for private events held with supporters between 2015 and 2019 in Tokyo hotels.

“I thought everything was done according to the law,” said Abe, who is the longest-serving prime minister of Japan.

Abe also corrected previous statements he made when he appeared in the parliament, having denied facts corroborated by the prosecution.

He said his advisers may have hidden facts from him and if that was not the case “I would not have made those statements.”

However, he ruled out resigning from the post of a parliamentarian that he has held since his resignation as prime minister.

Prosecutors said they did not have evidence that would allow them to hold Abe criminally responsible for the funding scam, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Instead, the prosecution brought a summary indictment against Hiroyuki Haikawa, one of Abe’s secretaries who headed the political support group that arranged the parties.

The prosecutors accuse him of not having declared the expenses and income related to these private events, according to NHK.

It would constitute a violation of the law governing political funds.

Abe, who resigned from the top post in mid-September due to health problems, had denied involvement during a voluntary questioning with investigators on Monday.

The former prime minister is also scheduled to appear Friday before the Diet (parliament) of Japan to give more explanation on the case, which has generated harsh criticism from the opposition.

The scandal has also undermined the popularity of his successor, Yoshihide Suga, who previously served as Abe’s spokesperson and chief cabinet secretary.

The events under investigation are the annual parties held between 2015 and 2019 in luxury hotels. Hundreds of Abe supporters attended the dinner events.

Organizers did not declare the costs of the parties under the law.

According to local media, Abe’s office allegedly paid about $77,000 in part fees for the attendees, who also paid part of the event costs.

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