Crime & Justice

Japan gov’t spokesperson suspected in undeclared funds scandal: media

Tokyo, Dec 8 (EFE).- The Japanese government’s chief cabinet secretary and spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno is suspected of involvement in an irregular political funds scandal of the ruling party, according to local media on Friday.

Matsuno, considered the most important figure in the current government after Prime Minster Fumio Kishida and seen as one of his potential successors, may have received more than 10 million yen (more than $69,000) from fundraising events that were not declared to relevant bodies, Kyodo news agency reported, citing an unnamed source.

His office allegedly failed to declare the funds over five years to 2022, public broadcaster NHK said.

In recent days, the media has been reporting on the investigation opened by Tokyo’s public prosecutor’s office into the irregular financing of several factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), although no formal charges have been filed against any member so far.

The new scandal affecting the LDP led Kishida on Thursday to step down as chief of his faction, a move thought to be aimed at distancing himself from suspicions of irregularities but that could make it difficult for him to continue as LDP leader.

In a regular press conference on Friday, Matsuno said he was aware of the investigation and stated that he would “continue to fulfill my duties with a sense of responsibility,” when asked by reporters if he was contemplating resigning due to the allegations.

Five of the LDP factions are being investigated for alleged irregularities, including one led by Kishida, another once led by late former leader Shinzo Abe, and that which Matsuno belongs to.

This latter faction, called Seiwaken or the Seiwa policy study group, is reported to have collected 660 million yen between 2018 and 2022. Of its approximately 100 members, around 10 have reportedly received funds, some of 10 million yen or more, according to sources cited by Kyodo.

Prosecutors are considering questioning the politicians once the current parliamentary session concludes on Dec. 13, according to the Japanese media.

Kishida, who has had support rates below 30 percent for months, is therefore affected by a case that further complicates his future at the head of his party.

The current prime minister’s term expires in October 2025, but a year before that he will have to face other primaries within the conservative formation. EFE

ahg-yk/tw

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