Japan prosecutors questioned ex-PM Abe over dinner functions spending

Japan prosecutors questioned ex-PM Abe over dinner functions spending

TOKYO: Japan’s Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been questioned by prosecutors over allegations that his political group illegally covered part of the cost of dinner receptions for supporters, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The prosecutors, who questioned Abe on Monday on a voluntary basis, have already decided to build a case against his state-paid secretary for allegedly not recording incomes and expenditures related to the dinner functions, Kyodo News reported.

Total revenues and costs not declared in political fund reports possibly exceed 40 million yen (US$387,000), they said.

The development could weaken Abe’s political clout and deal a blow to his successor Yoshihide Suga, who served as chief Cabinet secretary under Abe and defended the then leader over the scandal during news conferences and in parliament.

In response to calls from opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe led until September, is planning to have him summoned to parliament to address the allegations, possibly before the end of the year.

The former premier has expressed readiness to be summoned, saying Friday that “I will deal with (any questions) sincerely after prosecutors finish their investigation.”

The secretary heads a group of Abe’s supporters that hosted the functions between 2013 and 2019 on the eve of the government-sponsored annual cherry blossom-viewing parties, according to the sources.

Bills for the events held at two luxury hotels in Tokyo reached 23 million yen in total over a five-year period through last year, far higher than the amounts collected from attendees, many of whom were voters in Abe’s constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan.

The secretary confirmed during voluntary questioning that Abe’s side made up the shortfalls, the sources said.

But Abe, who became the country’s longest-serving prime minister before stepping down in September due to health reasons, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing after the scandal came to light in November last year.

People close to Abe have said the secretary offered false explanations when quizzed by the former premier over the matter.

— BERNAMA