Crime & Justice

Japan prosecutors question Abe over illicit political funding

Tokyo, Dec 22 (efe-epa).- Japan prosecutors have questioned former prime minister Shinzo Abe over alleged political funding, public broadcaster NHK said on Tuesday.

Abe, who stepped down in September, is facing a probe into allegations that he partly covered the cost of private parties with his supporters between 2015 and 2019 in Tokyo hotels, in a possible violation of funding laws.

The parties were thrown on the eve of government-funded cherry blossom viewing events while Abe was in office.

He had denied the allegations when he was questioned by lawmakers in parliament last year.

NHK, citing unnamed sources, said the Tokyo prosecutor’s office suspected that one of Abe’s aides, who heads his support group, did not adequately disclose the expenses and income associated with these private events.

However, the broadcaster said that Abe appeared before the prosecutors β€œon a voluntary basis on Monday.”

He denied knowing the alleged violations of funding laws.

According to NHK, prosecutors appear to think it would be difficult to lay a criminal charge against him.

They are expected to bring a summary indictment against the aide by the year-end on suspicion of violating the political-funds control law.

The events refer to the parties organized in luxury hotels. Hundreds of Abe supporters were invited to the parties, whose costs have not been fully declared as per the law.

According to local media, Abe’s office would have paid about 8 million yen ($76,500) in participation fees for the attendees, who for their part also covered part of the costs of the parties.

The bills for these hotels indicate that the total cost of the events was more than 20 million yen, well above the amounts charged to attendees.

The Tokyo prosecution office is investigating Abe’s chief secretary on suspicion that he did not adequately report the fees and payments, which would constitute violating the law on the control of political funds.

According to leaks to the Kyodo news agency, prosecutors intend to present in a court a formal accusation against an aide to the former prime minister.

Abe resigned as prime minister for health reasons in September after becoming Japan’s longest-serving head of government.

On Sep 16, he was replaced by his former chief of staff and spokesman, Yoshihide Suga. EFE-EPA


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